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Campaigners are calling on communities to save Norwich's pubs

PUBLISHED: 12:32 28 September 2016 | UPDATED: 13:45 28 September 2016

Camra pub protection officer Neil Bowers at the former Ketts Tavern which he is unhappy about being turned into housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Camra pub protection officer Neil Bowers at the former Ketts Tavern which he is unhappy about being turned into housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Campaigners are calling on their communities to help in the fight to save treasured pubs, landmarks and libraries as many have encountered difficulties safeguarding them.

Under the 2011 Localism Act, any building can be listed as an asset of community value (ACV), giving the local community six months in which to seek to buy it.

And while South Norfolk Council has pledged to help list every pub within its district – around 100 – other councils and community groups are less pro-active.

Any local group – from a parish council to a community group – can appeal for a building to be protected.

Since the Act came into force 167 applications have been made in Norfolk and East Suffolk, with 27 rejected and 17 pending.

The former Owl Sanctuary. Photo by Simon Finlay.The former Owl Sanctuary. Photo by Simon Finlay.

The Norwich and Norfolk Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) branch and South Norfolk Council have rolled out a new initiative to list pubs in the area on the scheme before it becomes a reactive measure.

One pub already listed is in the balance as just weeks remain for the community in Norwich to rally and save the former Ketts Tavern from being turned into housing.

The pub on Ketts Hill, latterly known as Virtuoso, had served the area for more than 200 years before the last owners, Kevin Hopkins and Ami Hodgson, decided to sell up.

It has been listed at a price in the region of £350,000, and after it was successfully nominated as an asset of community value by Norwich and Norwich Camra, the group is urging the community to express an interest.

The Berney Arms pub, one of Norfolk's most isolated pubs.

Picture: James Bass

The Berney Arms pub, one of Norfolk's most isolated pubs. Picture: James Bass

A six-week window to express an interest began on September 7, which would kick-start a six-month moratorium. If no intention to bid is received by October 19, no further bids can be accepted from community interest groups within the “protected period” of 18 months after this date.

“As a Camra branch we are not able to bid, but if anyone would like to form a community we are happy to help,” said pub protection officer Neil Bowers.

“Effectively they have four weeks now to put their name in the hat. It has been a very popular pub, and in the context of so many other pubs going, we didn’t want to lose another in Norwich. It is absolutely in the hands of the community now.”

Announcing the sale of the pub, owner Kevin Hopkins said the current climate had made the business unviable.

THE KIMBERLEY ARMS IN TRORY STREET.  Paul Hewitt 18/1/2000THE KIMBERLEY ARMS IN TRORY STREET. Paul Hewitt 18/1/2000

“Unfortunately it does get to the point we are working so hard for a small income,” he said.

“That is the difficulty all pubs are in. The business rates are too high, supermarket prices are making people drink at home, and we work too hard for too little reward.”

But Mr Bowers said the community could turn around the fortunes of the historic pub.

“In the community we have more of a say in how the pub is run, and you have more people with more ideas,” he said. “It is possible to make it viable by putting heads together.”

Success stories

The former Owl Sanctuary on Cattle Market Street was listed in February after a public outcry at the news the venue was to be sold.

More than 2,500 people backed a nomination by Norwich and Norfolk CAMRA to have the building listed, and the battle to retain the pub was backed by Clive Lewis, Norwich South Labour MP and Green Party councillors for Thorpe Hamlet.

The Owl Sanctuary has now moved to a new location on Timber Hill in the city centre.

The first pub to be listed in Norwich - The Marlpit - was rescued after lying dormant for 12 months. Owners Enterprise Inns put the grade II listed building on Hellesdon Road up for sale in 2014 and a community group was set up to look at ways to the reopen the pub.

The Friends of Marlpit Pub mobilised the community and launched a campaign which got the pub listed and after buying the pub, Cécile Bidet-Steele became the new owner.

It is not only pubs that have been afforded protection under the scheme. The Woodcock Road Police Station, in Catton, has been preserved by the Catton Grove Big Local project after being successfully listed.

It has now been transformed into a community resource centre called The Box, but retains the original building.

Battle to save the Berney Arms

Campaigners trying to rescue the fortunes of one of the most remote pubs in the country, the Berney Arms, are continuing with their mission despite a failed attempt to list it as an ACV.

On August 3, the Norwich and Norfolk Camra branch bid was unsuccessful because the pub is so remote.

The pub had become unprofitable and other options for its use, including a home, have been explored.

Jess Shanahan, one of the campaigners hoping to save the pub, said: “The bid to register the pub was declined on the grounds that there is no community within the local area because it is so remote.

“We, and many other people, completely disagree with that assessment because you can have a community anywhere, and we feel the community of the Berney Arms is online.

“The pub has now been taken back from the receivers by the original owner and is now no longer for sale. We, as a group trying to save the Berney Arms, have now registered as a community group so we are a legal business entity. We are hoping there is some way to enter into a discussion with the man who owns it with a view to continue with our plan to buy the pub for community use.”

• Anyone interested in forming a group to lodge an expression of interest can contact Mr Bowers on pubprotection@norwichcamra.org.uk, or Norwich City Council direct at planning@norwich.gov.uk or 01603212217.

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