WHY WE SHOULD SAVE LOCAL PUBS FROM CLOSURE.
You often hear the phrase - “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. This is a phrase often used when discussing the Centurion Inn pub in Newport. However .....
In my view, a community pub is like a pillar within a local neighbourhood. It’s very much similar to a football club in that over the years - owners come
and go. You get good owners and not so good owners. Ultimately, a venue’s history, heritage and standing within the community should be protected.
It’s similar in the football game. In Premier League Football you have a “Fit and Proper Persons Test” for potential new owners of clubs. In the pub
trade, something similar was introduced to protect local pubs. Neighbourhoods can now list their local pub as a “Community Asset” under Section 5 of
the Localism Act 2011. Unfortunately, this Act was never adopted in Wales by the Welsh Government and sadly it’s only relevant in England.
The Centurion Inn is unique. It’s not like other demolished pubs such as The Kings Head in Lliswerry or the Merry Miller in Bettws. Why? The Centurion
Inn is the only community pub in the entire Beechwood Ward which has a population of over 7,000 people. The pub is also located
near the ward boundary with the northern edge of St.Julians and as such many people from St.Julians view it as their pub as well. If you think about
it, the next nearest pub is the Victoria Inn... and after that... miles away.
I personally think, it’s absolutely shameful as to how the sale of this pub has been conducted. The for-sale sign went up in the Spring of last year, but
it wasn’t until early December that rumours circulated that the pub was to be sold for flats. The local community had very little warning in terms
of finding a buyer or temporarily trying to save the pub. THIS IS WHY WE NEED A COMMUNITY ASSET SCHEME IN WALES! In the very brief
time available, two potential buyers were ‘half-interested’ in the pub (if the price were slightly lower). I don’t expect Wetherspoons to buy the pub
as this is not in line with their town centre procurement strategy, however there are PubCo’s that could’ve been approached like Brains, Mitchell &
Butlers, Greene King, Star Pubs, Admiral Taverns, etc. There are local wholesalers. Once realising the Cent was under real threat, had there been more
time, who knows? Could the pub have been saved?
WE NEED A COMMUNITY ASSET SCHEME IN WALES!
Finally, we know that Newport City Council own the land. We know from an FOI that no land transfer documents have been raised, so the land will remain
as the property of the Council. We also know, that P&P Builders have purchased the leasehold on the pub and intend to build 8 residential properties
on the site. They have told me directly, they are working in partnership with Newport City Homes (NCH). They list NCH as a partner on their website.
I have checked all the minutes of meetings at board level within NCH and... low-and-behold... there are sections listed as “confidential” i.e. not
for public viewing. So why would a building firm spend up to £1/2 million on buying a pub, demolishing it and building 8 houses... when’s there’s only 39 years left on the lease? It’s absolutely bizarre. This needs explaining. Our local Councillors should’ve been asking these questions 3 months ago. The community have a right
LABOUR COUNCILLORS' HAVE NOT BEEN PROTECTING COMMUNITY INTERESTS
I don’t like any of the above. Yes, social housing is a problem in Wales at present, but we cannot allow local Community Wards to end up soulless and lifeless by having every pub or social club demolished over time. It’s interesting that when new super-large housing estates are built, community pubs are often factored into applications, so why aren’t existing pubs treated in the same way? Especially when it’s the last community pub in the neighbourhood.
The Centurion Inn has been underfunded for years. The demand is there, but the supply has been inadequate for at least the last 5 years. The Centurion
Inn has been underfunded for years by it’s previous owner - that’s not the pub’s fault. Structurally, the pub is solid, it has a beer garden and car
park. It’s in a great location. With the right investment, refurbishment and theming, I genuinely think the pub would prosper and succeed. That’s why
570 people have signed a petition to “Save the Cent”.
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