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How Lewisham and Greenwich communities are saving their pubs
Drinkers who are sick of local pubs being turned into supermarkets at last have something to toast - there is a new tool to help protect the endangered boozer.
A Sydenham pub recently looked like becoming just the latest in a long, sad line of south east London venues taken over by a supermarket chain or property developer.
But drinkers at The Windmill had a trick up their sleeves - a trick which has now been used by more than 300 pubs up and down the country.
Along with ward councillors and the Sydenham Society, they had the pub approved as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) - a kind of local listing allowing people to "stop the clock" for up to six months if the venue is being sold.
And this month the move paid off - a meeting deciding whether to approve plans for a Sainsbury's to replace the boozer ended with no decision as the planning committee was thrown into confusion over what to do next.
Neil Pettigrew from the Campaign for Real Ale - which is launching Community Pubs Month this week - worked on that campaign, and says the listing has become a vital tool in the fight to stop locals being run into the ground and then sold off to developers.
He said: "One great thing is it's a moral victory, the council recognises these pubs are loved by local people.
"Also, when the owner comes to put the pub up for sale, they can't do some secret wheeling and dealing behind the scenes as has happened in the past."
He went on: "Greenwich Council say that the fact a pub is an ACV is now a material consideration when it comes to planning.
"Ideally every pub should be an asset because that's what a pub is - it's a social hub where people congregate and can use it for all manner of functions."
Not just pubs have benefited - Charlton's The Valley ground was listed last year - but from Grove Park to Plumstead it is south east London's drinkers which are realising the benefits.
To apply for ACV status it just needs 21 people to get together, usually with the help of a community group like the Sydenham Society, and nominate the venue for council approval.
If successful, it means owners need to inform the council of any potential sale and then the group has six months to develop a business plan and potentially keep the pub going.
This week the Charlton Society successfully listed the White Swan - potentially at risk of being turned into a supermarket - as an ACV, and now plans a similar move with The Bugle Horn just down the road.
Andrew Donkin from the society said: "The White Swan was up on the market because Punch Taverns has been having a difficult time. It could have been sold to become flats.
"We thought it was important to keep it as a pub that Charlton people can use and have two thriving pubs in the village. Charlton should be big enough to support them both."
And Mark Dodds, a campaigner and former publican, now hopes that pub could even be bought by the community - envisaging a John Lewis-style co-op boozer.
He said: "The important thing is the pub is now protected. Now I want to get the whole process towards a community buyout."
Approved Assets of Community Value
The Dutch House, Sidcup Road, Eltham
The Plume of Feathers, Plumstead High Street, Plumstead
Progress Hall Community Centre, Admiral Seymour Way, Eltham
The Star Inn, Plumstead Common Road, Plumstead
The Valley Stadium, Floyd Road, Charlton
Weigall Road Sports Ground, Weigall Road
The White Swan, The Village, Charlton
The Baring Hall Hotel, Baring Road, Grove Park
Harts Lane Studio, New Cross
The Honor Oak, St German’s Road, Forest Hill
The Windmill, Kirkdale, Sydenham
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