Passing through the Cotswolds recently, I picked up the Summer 2016 edition of the Gloucestershire CAMRA magazine The Tippler. It’s an attractively-designed A5 publication, published quarterly, although I thought it was a bit light on hard news.
One feature that took my eye was the article shown below (click to expand) about the Oddfellows Arms in Cirencester, which is an object lesson in wrongheaded CAMRA thinking about pub preservation. This is, or was, a backstreet pub in this attractive and rather smart market town. It was taken over in 2007 by Hook Norton Brewery, but various tenants have failed to make a success of it, and planning permission has now been applied for conversion to residential use.
The article argues the case for refusing planning permission on the grounds that it is (or was) a wonderful pub and a great community resource, listing no less than twelve separate reasons. It also argues that it would do much better as a free house than one with a brewery tie. However, the fact that other free houses are successful in the town doesn’t necessarily mean that another one will be, and there are also plenty of thriving tied houses around. This is a facile assumption.
So what happens if the council refuse planning permission, but nobody chooses to take it on as a pub? Or some fool does, but fails to make a success of it? The council can’t go on refusing planning permission in the vain hope of a better outcome.
How many times does it have to be said that you can’t force people to run businesses they don’t perceive as viable, and no amount of planning controls will save a pub if the underlying demand isn’t there? If the residents of Cirencester are so bothered about it, why don’t they club together and buy it themselves?
The WhatPub? entry makes some sour comments about the situation that surely are inappropriate on a site aimed at the general public. It also states that the locals weren’t sufficiently impressed to apply for an ACV, which hardly suggests it’s the valued local facility that is claimed.