First pub saved under the Localism Act to reopen this summer

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

The Ivy House pub in Nunhead, Southwark has been acquired by a co-operative group after they fought to have the venue listed as a community asset under the Localism Act
The Ivy House pub in Nunhead, Southwark has been acquired by a co-operative group after they fought to have the venue listed as a community asset under the Localism Act
The Ivy House pub in Southwark is set to reopen this summer after a co-operative group completed an acquisition of the venue which they successfully listed as a community asset under the Localism Act.

The Stuart Road property in Nunhead was facing an uncertain future last year after Enterprise Inns closed the pub in April and sold it to property developers, sparking fears it would make way for a residential development.

However, led by local lawyer Tessa Blunden, a community group managed to gain English Heritage Grade II-listed status for the pub's historic interior. They then successfully lobbied Southwark Council to have the Ivy House named as a community asset under the 2011 Localism Act - the first UK pub to receive such a listing.

Freehold

Last month the group of locals, now known as Ivy House Community Pub Limited, bought the pub's freehold and, speaking to BigHospitality, Blunden revealed they were hoping to reopen the doors to the venue later this year.

“We are submitting our license to the council at the end of this week and, what with the work we need to do to the building, we are probably looking at opening in three or four months,” she said.

The group are now looking to sell shares in the business in order to raise £100k to fund a refurb which will see work completed on the pub’s kitchen, garden, entrance areas, toilets and cellar system.

“Most of our shareholders will come from the local community but it is not restricted to that – people from further afield who have an interest in protecting pubs are very welcome to invest,” said Blunden. “We are also very keen to get investment from London’s flourishing microbreweries,” she added.

The co-operative group will also be recruiting an experienced pub manager and chef to handle the day-to-day operations.

Localism Act

Although the co-operative isn’t the first group of community residents to come together to stop time being called on their local boozer they are the first to use the Localism Act to do so.

It was up to Southwark Council to decide if the venue, previously known as the Newlands Tavern, met the criteria for it to be listed as a community asset. Once they decided it did, a sale process was halted and a six-month moratorium prevented any bidder other than the community group from purchasing the property.

There was nothing to stop the seller simply waiting out the six months and selling to another preferred buyer but it gave the community time to raise funds and put a professional bid together.

The co-operative received cash from the Architectural Heritage Fund​ (AHF) and the Social Investment Business Group​ (SIB Group) as well as advice from the Plunkett Foundation which earlier this year opened a phone line for communities looking to acquire their local pub.

Protection

In the last two years campaigners have been actively looking at ways they can protect pubs from local planning decisions.​ However the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said some of these planned methods could leave pub companies with lots of red tape and result in more pub closures.

Blunden said she was sympathetic to the need for more housing, particularly in London, and understood why pubcos, as the legal owners of the buildings, had rights and reasons to sell pubs but argued their sale was often a big loss to local communities.

“I think long-term it is not great for anyone if good pubs close,” she said. “The Ivy House was a viable pub and was doing really well before it closed – from that point of view I think more needs to be done to protect local pubs.”

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