Then and Now
Back in May of last year I published a letter on the Great Wolford Village website from a local historian and long-term regular visitor to the Fox and Hounds Inn raising concerns about the new owners’ actions upon purchasing the pub. I added my own note of concern to the post. My concern didn’t diminish when one of the owners, Jackie Harding later stated publicly and to me personally that “If the village doesn’t support the pub we’ll close it and just live there”.
When Jackie and Steve arrived they were given a substantial e-mailing list of people keen to support them. Despite this, within 10 months of the pub’s re-opening the business has been allowed to run down to the point where it is now no longer open during the daytime (even at weekends) and doesn’t serve food. Local people seeking to dine out or enjoy a convivial afternoon or evening with friends have no alternative but to meet elsewhere.
The reasons for this decline? Well I think anyone who has been into the pub and is honest with themselves about what’s on offer there understands them only too well. Are we seeing a deliberate policy to run the pub down, claim that it is no longer viable and attempt to obtain change of use to a domestic dwelling? Well this has been tried locally (remember that ‘non-viable’ pub the Horse and Groom at Bourton on the hill?) and wider afield. In small communities like ours, especially those with no other pub, these applications are often strongly resisted and rarely successful. What it can mean is that a pub may be closed for months or years while the owners seek profit at the expense of the community.
Nothing can force the owners to sell the Fox and Hounds. What we CAN do however is to build ourselves a breathing space by applying to the local council to list the pub as an Asset of Community Value under the Localism act of 2011. This forces the owner of listed properties to notify the local authority if they wish to sell the business. This notification invokes a moratorium on the sale for 6 months, a breathing space for communities to come up with a competitive offer. The listing of an asset does not force the owners to accept a community bid or to reduce the price, but it does bring other protections such as the removal of permitted development rights.
This matter was brought before the Parish Council some months ago by concerned users of the pub, myself among them. The Council’s feeling then was that the owners should be given more time to develop the business.
I believe the situation now warrants a swift reassessment of that decision and I intend to bring the matter up again at this week’s PC meeting. If the Council will still not support the submission of an ACV application this can be made by any group of community members and I propose that this is the route we take.
The PCC meeting will be held at the church TOMORROW, Wednesday May 11th at 7.30pm. Please attend if you’re interested in preserving a pub that is so vital to our village community.