Owners of post office and pub resist attempt to protect them as city assets

The former post office building on Lendal, York. Photograph: YorkMix
7 Sep 2019 @ 9.21 am
| Environment, News, Politics

People in York want to give the former post office and a well-known city pub extra protection – but the owners of both are resisting the move.

The building on Lendal that housed the city’s Crown Post Office until March is one of three buildings that residents want to become Assets of Community Value (ACV).

The other two are The Lord Nelson pub in Nether Poppleton and the Blacksmiths Arms on Shipton Road, Skelton.

ACV status can be granted by the council to buildings that benefit local communities. It then means they cannot be disposed of until local people are given a fair opportunity to bid for them when they are put on the open market.

Legal wrangle

York Post Office on Lendal. Photograph: YorkMix
The freehold of Lendal Post Office is owned by Post Office Ltd. The branch was moved out of the building in March and incorporated into WH Smith on Coney Street.

It has been nominated for ACV status by Guildhall Labour Party.

But solicitors acting for the Post Office insist the Lendal building should not given protection. They argue that its use as a post office made it exempt from the ACV legislation due to it being an operational business premises.

The decision rests with Cllr Nigel Ayre as executive member for finance and performance. In a report ahead of a decision session on 16 September, officers recommend he rejects the application.

Pub makes ‘real contribution’

The Lord Nelson pub in Nether Poppleton. Photograph © Google Street View
Nether Poppleton parish council has asked for the Lord Nelson pub to be listed as an asset of community value.

They state:

  • The Lord Nelson is of significant community value. This is the only public house that serves the traditional centre of Nether Poppleton village.

    It makes a real contribution to the local community and is a valuable and well-frequented social and leisure facility.

But owners Act York Limited are opposing the listing. They say negotiations are underway which are “expected to secure the viability of the pub”.

The report continues:

  • ACT York states that listing as an ACV may have a direct consequence on negotiations in the immediate future to agree a tenant for the pub.

    ACT York states that this could result in a risk of closure of the pub.

    ACT York also claim that the application misrepresents the truth regarding community value as it is not a busy pub frequented by many but supported by a small number of regular visitors.

    It is hoped that the investment in the past year will broaden appeal to the local community and associated sports groups for regular use.

The Lord Nelson was put up for sale by Enterprise Inns in 2017. It was sold to Act York Ltd for £293,820 in 2018, when they outbid a ‘community benefit society’ set up by locals to buy the pub.

Officers are recommending that the Lord Nelson is give ACV status.

The only local

The Blacksmiths Arms, Skelton. Photograph © Google Street View
Finally the Blacksmiths Arms, owned by Samuel Smith’s Brewery, is also recommended to be given ACV status. In their application, Skelton Parish Council state:

  • The Blacksmiths Arms has served the Skelton community for generations and for decades has been the only ‘local’ public house in the village.

    Also it has been a major social centre for a traditional part of village community life, without which, a contributor to our social cohesion is missing.

    Sadly, for lack of managing tenants, the pub has been closed for an extended period. This has created a notable deterioration in Skelton’s social cohesion and wellbeing.

Sam Smith’s has told City of York Council that it is a principle of the brewery to not sell or redevelop its pubs. The brewery has plans to carry out renovation work to the building, and is fully committed to re-opening the pub, once suitable new management is found.

“Samuel Smith’s brewery does not believe that the Parish Council could ever be able to acquire the premises,” the report states.