Keep the White Lion in Aldershot as a pub
Campaign launched to keep the White Lion in Aldershot as a pub
Campaign Committee Elected
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 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. A further public meeting will be held shortly.
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 is listed as an ACV.
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, are trying to see if there is interest amongst the wider community to get together and fundraise 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.
The campaign is currently at an early stage, the ACV has been “activated”, but needs to move quickly as the ACV process means that a bid need to be submitted to the owner by 15th May 2020. After that date the owner is free to sell, or not, as they wish.
Assuming local people do want the pub to survive, we will then try to find out what they’d like to see happen. Do they, for instance, just want a pub or might other services, like a shop or a post office or a café, be offered as well? What sort of pub would they like, and most importantly, would they support a community ownership bid and, if yes, would they be interested in investing?
If you have not visited the White Lion, it’s well worth calling in for a beer 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