White Lion, Aldershot - Community Campaign
The White Lion is Reopening
Fantastic News the White Lion is to reopen on Friday 2nd June 2023 after over 3 years.
Rochelle Cottam, who worked at the pub prior to its closure and more recently managed the Red Lion will be running it. Our understanding is that ownership is still with those who have been trying to convert the pub to housing and Rochelle is leasing it; so whilst good news, the reopening must be treated with caution as to the motivation.
It is unlikely that their aspirations to redevelop the pub have changed and it could be part of a strategy to demonstrate there is no community support for the pub. So CAMRA will be playing our part and local members will be getting along to the to pub and using it when we can.
Latest News - December 2022
The Planning Inspector considered the appeal from the owners of the White Lion against Rushmoor Borough Council's decision to refuse permission to convert the pub to flats has dismissed the appeal.
The Appeal Decision is well laid out and can be read in full here.
Paragraphs 3 to 9 of the decision relate to the need and viability of the White Lion as a pub where the Inspector says:
"I have considered the contribution this proposal would make to the supply and mix of housing in the area. However, given the scale of the development, this benefit would be moderate...... The positive benefits of the scheme would not outweigh the social harm arising from the loss of the public house and the significant adverse effect upon the integrity of the SPA. "
Intriguingly the pub was briefly publicised as available to rent for £36,000 but was removed from the agents Website after about a week; there is no indication as to why that might be or whether it was a genuine offer.
The Aldershot Community Pub Group are still looking to raise funds for the purchase of the pub, With sufficient community support it is feasible if they can take advantage of current government schemes intended to assist this type of purchase. However, the key point here is with sufficient community support. If this is going to become a reality then the Group needs more people prepared to become actively involved. Whilst people are supportive, no one has come forward to offer the level of commitment to the campaign that is needed to drive it forward.
Outcome of Public Meeting - July 2022
The White Lion Public Meeting took place on 26th July 2022. It was attended by 27 people and chaired and introduced by Justin Coll, Chair Aldershot Civic Society, who gave a community perspective of the value of the pub. Following a political perspective from Councillor Mike Roberts, - Peter Broberg, ACPL Treasurer, summarised what has been achieved and the future opportunities for success of the campaign.
Going forward ACPL will be looking to raise funds for the purchase of the pub. This is clearly a major hurdle but with sufficient community support it is feasible if they can take advantage of current government schemes intended to assist this type of purchase.
The broad concept is to have a share issue for the community to commit to purchasing shares in ACPL using the Crowdfunder Platform.
To achieve this the Group need more people prepared to become actively involved. Contact them here ku.oc.tohsredlanoiletihw@lpcaseiriuqne
Public Meeting - 26th July 2022
A public meeting, hosted by the Campaign Group will be held on Tuesday 26th July at Aldershot Methodist Church
The campaign has reached a pivotal point and it is possible that soon there may be an opportunity to buy the pub for the Community.
The Campaign Committee have got the campaign to this position, but are clear if the community is going to achieve the purchase they will need more support. The harsh truth is that without practical community involvement the campaign is dead in the water. To be owned and run by the Community needs the Community to be actively involved in making this happen. Wringing our hands and saying that something needs to be done is not going to get the pub back. They need people to be actively involved now. Only then can we all be sure that we did not sit back while we allowed the White Lion to become just another ex-pub of Aldershot that we all hold great memories of.
If this is a campaign you would like to support then head down to the public meeting. As indicated above this will be held at 6:30pm on Tuesday 26th July at the Aldershot Methodist Hall, Herrett Street, Aldershot, GU12 4ED (only a few yards away from The White Lion).
The campaigners will briefly describe the progress that has been made over the last 2 ½ years and the current situation that leads them to believe that there is a credible opportunity for the community to purchase and run the White Lion.
More details on their Website here.
The Public Meeting will close at about 7:30pm after a Questions & Answers session and if appropriate, conversations can continue at a local pub!
Formal notification of the owners appeal against the first decision to refuse permission to convert the whole of the White Lion into flats was received on 10th May. The appeal will be determined on the basis of written representations and all previous material will be provided to the Inspector. We submitted a further representation in advance of the deadline on 14th June, largely re-emphasising our previous points.
Rushmoor Borough Council has finally approved the new Asset of Community Value application on 18th May, so the pub is now listed as an ACV again.
The second planning application to convert the upstairs rooms of the pub to flats was refused by Rushmoor Borough Council on 13th April. Another blow for the developers and a victory for those dedicated to saving the White Lion. 34 objections were submitted and Justin Coll, Chair of the Aldershot Civic Society (ACS) attended the meeting and spoke against the planning application. Justin was able to voice the stance of the ACS, Aldershot Community Pub Limited and ourselves that, for so many reasons we vigorously objected to the planning application. Rushmoor Borough Council Development Management Committee voted overwhelming vote to refuse the planning application. The key reasons being that the developer had not satisfied the Council’s pub protection polices and in particular failed to demonstrate that the revised pub layout was viable and there was still a need for a viable pub in this part of Aldershot.
Another planning application was submitted by the owners to convert the White Lion to housing. However, this application was only for conversion of the upstairs area to flats, with the downstairs area being retained as a pub. Importantly the owners claimed they now accept the Council’s and communities preference for retaining the pub and that a mixed use proposal would be a significant benefit and make the pub more attractive. There were two ways of looking at this:
- That the planning application would compromise the operation and viability of the White Lion to run as a pub. The loss of the ancillary accommodation upstairs would be damaging to the continuing pub business. The availability of accommodation makes the White Lion a much more attractive proposition to prospective tenants or managers. Any adverse impact on trade and viability would actually be welcomed by the applicant and they would go on to claim that the business is not viable and therefore full change of use is justified. This is effectively what has happened at the Villagers, Blackheath
- Alternatively, this could be viewed as a genuine attempt to provide a viable pub. The proposal now retains and facilitates use of the ground floor as a pub with improved facilities, such as new toilets and a kitchen, to make it more viable and attractive to potential occupiers. This is the situation with the Queen Stage (Sir Douglas Haig) Effingham,
However is also made clear that the owners had no wish to run the pub themselves, but rather lease it out to others to do so. The Aldershot Community Pub Ltd therefore got in touch with the owners, to see if they would lease the pub to them. They got no response, which rather suggested that the owners intentions were not genuine and this was just a ruse to convert the White Lion to private accommodation by stealth.
Both CAMRA and ACPL submitted an objection to the planning application based on the view that:
- there were concerns that the proposed 'improvements' would make the pub less attractive with a reduction in usable pub floorspace, the removal of disabled access via the side entrance, the removal of a function room, the reduction/removal of a beer garden and the removal of a urinal albeit with the positives of an improved kitchen and additional ladies pedestal
- the marketing document provided as supporting evidence inaccurately stated a negative view of the pub's financial feasibility despite its pre-covid success- yet it accompanied new plans to now develop the pub proving agreement with it indeed being viable
- the lack of provision of a domicile for a pub manager or landlord was a retrograde step
- Most importantly we highlighted that the suggested pub plans were not part of the planning application and affect a vital community hub. To prevent this becoming a 'change of use by stealth' they would require first that the developer be legally bound so residency of the flats above be subject to completion of the proposed change to the pub being delivered first
At their meeting on 18th August Rushmoor Council refused planning permission to convert the pub into flats. Overall there were 52 public comments on the application and all 52 were objections.
The key policy reason for the refusal was that the “application has not been supported by sufficient evidence to demonstrate that there is no-longer term need for the public house. In this regard, the proposal conflicts with… [Rushmoor’s planning policies]… and would thereby give rise to the loss of a community facility.”
This was a great result and as of December 2021 there has been no reaction from the owners either via an appeal or amended application. However, the work done on this by the local community to date has been excellent. The Community Group looking to buy the pub remains active and is still working hard to secure the long term future of the White Lion as a pub and aiming to launch a Crowd funding initiative in 2022.
The new owners of the White Lion have submitted a planning application to convert the White Lion to 4 flats. The planning application can be found here.
We have until 11th August to submit objections.
The new owners of the pub appear to have no interest in running the White Lion as a pub. The White Lion campaign group have repeatedly tried to engage with them to establish their intentions for the pub and offered to work with them to develop a community pub, but all their approaches have been ignored.
The planning application makes no attempt to suggest the pub is unviable or to address the requirements of Rushmoor Borough Council’s Pub Protection Policy and therefore is unlikely to be successful. Nevertheless it is important that local people, object to the planning application and demonstrate their opposition to developing the White Lion as flat and the consequent loss of another fine community pub.
In recent years the North town area of Aldershot has been devastated with multiple pub closures and the White Lion remains a viable business; demonstrated by the community’s attempt to buy it. They still wish to buy the pub and run it on behalf of the local community.
Although the White Lion, Aldershot remains closed the campaign to buy the pub on behalf of the local community continues. The campaign group has submitted an offer to buy the freehold of the pub for the asking price of £275,000. However this offer is conditional on being able to trade effectively and raise the necessary capital to purchase the pub.
As we all know Covid-19 means that all pubs are currently suffering greatly reduced levels of trade and for existing, successful pubs, just surviving is a victory. So whilst the Group is still working hard to purchase and run the White Lion, the challenging pub operating restrictions mean that they cannot produce a stable business plan as the operating constraints are currently too severe to predict future trading performance with any confidence.
Therefore it has been decided that now is not the right time to launch a share offer and seek to buy the White Lion. However, as soon as a a realistic prospect of trading restrictions being lifted to the extent that the White Lion can trade to its potential in the “new normal” then the share offer and purchase will proceed.
In the meantime there is a risk that the White Lion may be sold, but given planning protections it will still need to be operated as a pub and clearly the current challenges would apply equally to any prospective landlord.
Whilst now is not the time the Community Group are preparing to seize the opportunity when it is possible to do so. They continue to meet regularly and are currently seeking a volunteer to be the minute secretary for the Group and provide some basic administrative support. The role would only take a couple of hours a week and anyone interested is invited to email the Group at moc.liamg@tohsredlanoiletihwehtevas
Newsletter 5 - June 2020: White Lion Newsletter 5
Keep the White Lion Roaring! T-Shirts Now Available
The sun has been shining and it’s definitely T-shirt weather so get your ‘Keep the White Lion Roaring’ T-shirt now and wear yours with pride,
To order your T-shirt(s) send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The T-shirts come in all sizes from S to XXXL at £12 (black), £15 (other plain colours). Local deliveries free of charge or £3.50 for posting.
Offer to buy the White Lion submitted
With the Asset of Community Value (ACV) designation for the pub expiring in 15th May the Aldershot Community Pub Group (ACPG) has formally advised the owner of the pub that they wish to buy the White Lion, once they have raised the necessary capital and had the opportunity to carry out the necessary inspections and surveys.
This will ensure ACPG continues to be recognised as a serious bidder, despite the ACV no longer being in place and that negotiations can continue once the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic becomes clearer.
£2,500 Bursary Awarded
A £2,500 bursary has been awarded to the campaign group to help with our start-up costs. This very welcome award has been provided under the “More than a Pub” programme which is funded by The Power to Change Trust as part of a wider initiative to grow the number of community pubs opening across the UK. Plunkett Foundation is the lead organisation delivering the programme. .It is a real boost to the campaign and shows that there is strong local support.
Coronavirus Impact statement
Due to the Covid-19 Virus, in accordance with Government directive, the White Lion, together with all pubs, has been required to close for the foreseeable future. However, the Aldershot Community Pub Committee are still holding virtual meetings to ensure that saving the White Lion still continues to make progress.
The Aldershot Community Pub Committee has agreed that shares will be offered in the pub at a minimum of £20 and that voting will be on the basis of one share one vote.
The Committee is also inviting potential investors to make a pledge in support of the pub. This is not a commitment to invest, but gives an indication of how much share capital might be raised and greatly helps with securing other funding.
As at 30 April 2020: 40 pledges received, total amount: £35, 520 and counting. The amounts pledged range from £20 (1 share) all the way up to the largest single pledge so far of £10,000 (500 shares). The average pledge is nearly £900 and the most distant has come from Spain!
Further details and the opportunity to make a pledge can be found on the online pledge form.
Please fill out this quick questionnaire.
To succeed, the pub campaign group need as many people as possible to get involved and raise a lot of money quite quickly. But first they have to prove there is plenty of support from local people to keep the White Lion going as a traditional English local pub and develop it into ‘More Than a Pub’, offering other community activities outside pub opening hours. The questionnaire is designed to provide the evidence that is needed.
So please complete the questionnaire as soon as possible and keep spreading the word as widely as you can, the more the merrier!
In recent years, Britain’s pubs have been closing at an alarming rate – on average, twenty pubs call last orders every week. Tragically, many of these pubs have been popular and valued community facilities in the past and could be so again in the right hands. It’s unfortunate that many owners regard pubs primarily as property assets which are more valuable if their use can be changed to something else like a house or shop.
However, all across the country, communities are fighting back. Sometimes it’s sufficient to see off an unwanted planning application through effective campaigning. In some cases, though, the best way forward for local people has been to buy the pub themselves. Well over 100 pubs are now community-owned with many more in the pipeline.
Needless to say, as champions of Britain’s pub-goers, CAMRA is hugely in favour of these developments and we are keen to help communities interested in going down this road.
In recognition of the fact that communities value their pub, but often need time to organise and raise funds, the Government introduced the Asset of Community Value (ACV) Regulations. This means that a community group can seek to have a local pub listed as an ACV and if successful then if the owner later decides to sell the pub, the owner has to give the community up to 6 months to submit an offer to buy the pub.
This is exactly the situation that The White Lion in Aldershot currently finds itself in. The White Lion was built shortly after the army arrived in Aldershot in 1854 and is one of the oldest surviving pubs in the town. In the eastern suburbs of Aldershot, this is a proper locals' pub with loads of 60's atmosphere, exactly the sort of pub that offers so much to its local community. The pub is well known to local Real Ale enthusiasts too for its 10+ years in the Good Beer Guide, during which time it has been leased to and run by Triple fff Brewery. The lease expired in January and regrettably Triple fff decided not to take on a new lease. The freehold is owned by a private individual, who has decided to sell up. The freehold of the pub is available for circa £275,000 and whilst the owner is apparently perfectly willing to sell the pub as a going concern and the existing landlord happy to continue to run it, the future of The White Lion in its present form is, at the very least, uncertain. The White Lion was listed as an ACV until it expired on 15th May.
Alarmed at the potential imminent loss of a fantastic pub and local asset, CAMRA, working with the Aldershot Civic Society, local councillors and other members of the community galvanised interest amongst the wider community to get together and fund raise to buy and run the pub.
If this can be achieved it means that the pub would be both owned and controlled by a significant number of people from within the community. As a result, local folk would have a real stake in the pub and the opportunity to have a say in how it is run. The White Lion can then become a facility which truly reflects the wants and needs of the local area whilst still being a viable business – helped by the fact that people will often be more inclined to support and use ‘their’ pub.
An initial PUBLIC MEETING was held in the White Lion on Thursday 23rd January, where approx 140 people crammed into the pub to hear Mark Dodds an advocate and campaigner for preserving and enhancing the social value of pubs debunk some of the myths around community ownership of pubs and showed how this had been achieved for all sorts of pubs around the country.
A further meeting was held on Tuesday 28th January where a Management Committee was formally elected and the process started to join the Plunkett Foundation which will enable initial funding to cover costs of developing a genuine community bid.
If you have not visited the White Lion, it’s well worth calling in for a beer (when they reopen!) at 20 Lower Farnham Road, Aldershot. GU12 4EA.
If you want to be kept informed of progress then ask at the bar to leave your contact details, send an email to: moc.liamg@tohsredlanoiletihwehtevas or visit the campaign Website for up to date information http://www.whitelionaldershot.co.uk/
Press release: Campaign to keep the White Lion in Aldershot as a pub launched
Flyer: Public meeting at the White Lion, Aldershot
Newsletter 1 - February 2020: White Lion Newsletter 1
Newsletter 2 - March 2020: White Lion Newsletter 2
Newsletter 3 - May 2020: White Lion Newsletter 3
Newsletter 4 - May 2020: White Lion Newsletter 4 Newsletter 5 - June 2020: White Lion Newsletter 5