Real ale lovers are working hard to try to protect one of Sheffield’s most valuable heritage assets – its pubs.
The city’s rich brewing tradition is tied to its huge mix of well-loved drinking establishments.
But many of these are under threat from developers who see the potential in pub buildings for conversion to housing or retail.
That’s where the Sheffield and District branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, or Camra, comes in. Members are trying to list as many Sheffield pubs as possible as assets of community value, or ACV.
The idea to turn a building into an ACV came from the 2011 Localism Act. A successful application means a pub or any other building cannot be knocked down or converted without planning permission, and if it goes up for sale, the community is given six months to put in an offer.
ACV applications don’t have to come from Camra – a local group successfully applied to list The Castle Inn, Bolsterstone – but nationally the organisation saw an opportunity to protect heritage.
Sheffield Camra pub heritage officer Dave Pickersgill said: “The big fear was that the pubs that had been there for hundreds of years would be turned into someone’s house.”
Local groups had applied Sheffield Council to list The Old Cart and Horses in High Green, which was due to become a supermarket, and The Queen’s Ground Hotel in Hillsborough, which residents wanted to protect.
“They both got rejected,” said Dave. “The view from the council seemed to be there were too many pubs in the area.”
Sadly for Camra, The Old Cart and Horses is now a Sainsbury’s Local. And the branch faced further disappointment when 10 applications it put in were rejected by the council.
Shocked by the decisions, members asked for a meeting with the council.
Dave and Kate Major, branch chairman and landlady of The Three Tuns in the city centre, successfully argued their point.
Dave said: “We went through The Three Tuns application, and showed the council other applications from the Derbyshire Dales that had been approved. We put The Three Tuns in again and this time it went through.
“Then we got The Bath Hotel and The Sheffield Tap.”
The problem seemed to be the definition of ‘community’, one of the key points in the ACV application. This was a particular sticking point for The Sheffield Tap, with few people living immediately next to the railway station.
“Some pubs have a community of ‘locals’ who live hundreds of miles away,” said Dave. “People change trains in Sheffield and go to the Tap for a beer. People meet there and do business deals and carry on.”
He added: “Pubs have changed with the times – 150 years ago it was the place people met and got away from tenements and poor living conditions. Now they are places to meet, to move on from, to relax.”
Sheffield Camra now has several successful applications under its belt, with local groups also taking up the campaign. The Plough in Sandygate, for example, is now listed as an ACV thanks to residents fighting plans to turn it into a Sainsbury’s.
The importance of the listing varies for each pub. Just because a pub becomes an ACV, it does not mean it will stay open. But the status does give the community scope to try to save it if they want to.
An example of real community involvement, said Dave, was the Angler’s Rest at Bamford, near Hope Valley.
“The pub was closed,” said Dave. “They got ACV status as a local group. Now it’s owned by a local co-operative.
“Without the status it wouldn’t have happened. It would have been turned into flats very quickly. It gives that little bit of leeway for something else to happen.”
One application yet to be decided is for The University Arms, in the middle of the University of Sheffield campus in Western Bank.
Sheffield Camra applied to list the pub after a university masterplan appeared to earmark it for demolition. The initial application was among the 10 rejected by the council, but a second application has since been submitted.
The university has opposed the listing, with a six-page letter from London-based solicitor Pinsent Masons outlining a number of ‘deficiencies’ in the application, including a failure to demonstrate a ‘local community’ or set out a proposal to buy the pub if it were up for sale.
The letter also accuses Camra of an ‘attempt to limit the university’s ability to develop this part of its estate for the benefits of its staff and students’.
But Dave believes the university has missed the point. He said ACV status was ‘a clear indication that the pub matters to the community’.
In a full response to the university, the branch points out that a pub’s community does not have to be ‘local’ – and this was argued successfully in the case of The Sheffield Tap. It argues that a group applying to list a pub does not need to explain how it would buy the pub as there is ‘no obligation for a group nominating a pub to purchase it in the future’.
The point of an ACV listing, Dave argues, is to show that a pub is valued by its community – whatever that community might look.
“Our feeling is that pubs are the sort of thing that need saving and looking after in the same way you would look after the interior of Sheffield City Hall or Chatsworth House,” he said. “It’s all part of the bigger heritage picture.”
Sheffield’s protected pubs:
The Castle Inn, Bolsterstone; The Plough Inn, Sandygate; The Three Tuns, city centre; The Cremorne, London Road; The Bath Hotel, city centre; The Sheffield Tap, city centre; The Castle, Bradway.
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