A developer who wants to turn a former Brighton pub into housing is fighting back against a community bid to turn it into a community space.
Godfrey Investments has submitted a new viability report to support its application to convert the Cuthbert Pub and build two more homes which, it says, show trade declined there in the years before it closed in 2014, selling about a third as much beer, cider and alcopops.
It also lists the 19 other pubs and cafes within a mile radius of the pub’s location in Freshfield Road.
But the trading figures supplied by Enterprise show that the pub’s fortunes were on the rise again since being taken over in 2012 – and they do not take into account food and wine, which would have formed a more significant part of the pub’s trade after its gastro pub conversion.
The information in the new report is also likely to be used to combat the Cuthbert Community Buyout Group’s application to list the pub as an asset of community value, which is still being considered by the council.
The report says: “It is clear the loss of the Cuthbert would not compromise the choice and need of the community.
“It is not isolated and does no offer a facility or meeting room that ensures a local community has the ability to meet its day-to-day needs.”
It adds: “Despite the efforts of the new landlords … there was little or no support for the pub and kitchen and Enterprise Inns were forced to close the pub.
“With due respect the current ACV nomination is perceived as a reactive position whilst the pub has been closed for over a year pending planning permission rather than pro-active when in May 2014 the pub was nationally advertised for sale and at that point the ACV nomination could have been expressed.”
However, the buyout group is fighting back. On its blog, it says: “We’re not planning to run it as a pub, but as a community centre. Speaking to local people has shown us that there is substantial enthusiasm for this kind of local resource; also, the economic logistics of sustaining a not-for-profit community centre are quite different from a pub that is run as a money-making business.
“There is a distinct lack of community spaces north of Kemp Town and east of Hanover. Existing spaces in Kemp Town and Hanover are not easy for everyone to reach, nor are the types of cafes to be found there affordable for all.”
And it adds: “We believe that the last owners left the pub because of personal circumstances and not because they could not make the business viable.”
It has also appealed to the neighbourhood to contribute memories of the pub to show it was a “vibrant community asset” – and people have already responded with tales of birthday bashes, wetting the baby’s head with neighbours, wedding receptions and street parties.
Meanwhile, both the planning application and ACV application are yet to be decided.
A council spokesman said: “We haven’t made a decision as yet because we are still carrying out our assessment so that we can arrive at a robust conclusion taking into account all the available information.”