Community spirit ‘will save squatted Brighton pub’

Posted On 02 Feb 2016 at 11:19 am

Campaigners working to take over a Brighton pub which violent squatters wrecked say they hope it is nothing community spirit and elbow grease can’t fix.

Lectern squat
The Lectern Pub in Brighton was raided on Sunday after repeated reports of violence, and five people arrested.

But a community campaign group which has been working for several months to put together a bid to buy it says it hopes by raising the plight of the pub, some good can come of it.

The Save the Lectern group successfully applied to Brighton and Hove City Council to get the Lectern listed as an asset of community value (ACV), which was granted last month.

Campaigner Sally Barrett said: It’s a shame things have turned a bit sour with the squatters, but this has certainly raised the profile of our project, so hopefully some good can come of it.

“We did not expect it to be in good order after the squatters have been there for a while. We are still hopeful the damage is more superficial, nothing some elbow grease and community spirit cant solve!

“Our group has spoken to the agent and they said the owner is keen to meet with us, although he believes the days of it working as a pub are over.

“We are due to go out in the area door knocking on Friday to circulate a survey and gather local feeling.”

The campaign started after the closure of the pub was discussed at the Coombe Road local action team, which led to the formation of the group and then the ACV application.

The pub is currently for let with Graves Jenkins for £50,000 a year, and the listing says the owners are also open to offers for the freehold.

Once a building is listed as an ACV, this means if it is put on the market, the community is given six months to raise the money to buy it.

Its owners, New Leaf Investments, have not submitted any planning applications. They took the squatters to Brighton County Court last Wednesday, but as the hearing was held in chambers, the outcome is not publicly available, and 30 people were in the pub when it was raided two days ago.

The Lectern is one of a clutch of pubs which have become assets of community value in the last few months. These include the Downsman in Hangleton, the Cuthbert in Queen’s Park, the West Hill in Seven Dials and the Independent in Hanover. An application to list the King and Queen in central Brighton has also been submitted.

Both the Downsman and the Cuthbert have been closed and campaigns formed to save them, with developments stalled but the owners not yet putting them on the market. Both groups are still active and determined to ensure the sites remain in community use of some sort.

The other applications appear pre-emptive as all three pubs are currently open and there are no public plans to sell them.

Brighton and Hove’s first ACV, the Saltdean Lido, has raised half the money it needs to build a new substation, which had stalled the project after its request to the council for funding was refused, and work is underway to restore it with £2.5m government funding and a £4.7m Heritage Lottery grant.

The Horse and Groom and the Rose Hill Tavern both remain in private ownership, but in both cases the developer who bought them from Enterprise Inns changed their plans to turn them into a lettings agency and housing respectively.

The Horse and Groom has now reopened as a live music cafe bar Village, and the Rose Hill Tavern has been sold to two musicians who want to reopen it as an arts hub.

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