Two weeks ago, a Derbyshire co-operative was coming to terms with the collapse of its bid to buy its local pub. But less than a fortnight after it announced it would sell the Anglers Rest from under the community’s nose, pub company Admiral Taverns has changed its mind.
Bamford Residents had registered the pub as an asset of community value. They had raised £187,000 through a community share issue plus £150,000 in finance to buy the pub, and Admiral had agreed to sell it to Bamford Community Society. But the pubco announced on August 23rd it had exchanged contracts with a third party.
Admiral has now apologised to the community and agreed with the purchaser to rescind the sale, enabling the co-operative to purchase the pub as agreed.
Managing Director of Admiral Taverns Kevin Georgel said: “It’s clear that the local community feels passionately about taking ownership of the pub themselves. Consequently, in the days since the original sale was agreed at the end of August, and in the wake of considerable campaigning by the BCS, we’ve worked to rescind the sale agreement.
“As we became aware of how important this situation was to the BCS and local community, we sought to address it to everyone’s satisfaction. Nevertheless, if anyone has misinterpreted our intentions or if our actions have caused upset, we would like to apologise.”
The community registered the £320,000 pub as an asset of community value under the Localism Act 2011. It had even instructed its solicitors to start conveyancing. But Admiral Taverns was still able to exchange contracts with a third party.
David Alcock, Senior Associate for Anthony Collins Solicitors, explains: “The community can request a six month moratorium to work up a bid before an asset of community value can be sold. However, a going concern that would continue as a similar business is exempt from the moratorium.
“There are a whole series of exemptions to the six-month waiting period and the effect of some of these is to dilute the effectiveness of the rights as far as community groups go. It illustrates there’s a weakness in the law from the community perspective.
“This co-op wanted to add community value, but that didn’t get them any additional protection under the act,” he added.
Jonathan Bury of Bamford Community Society added: "Whilst Admiral have acted within the letter of the law, the legislation was intended originally to give community groups a right to buy. Unfortunately, it was changed to a right to bid, meaning community groups aren’t protected from this sort of behaviour.
“This isn’t what the Government intended and it’s sad to see it doesn't offer the protection community groups need.
"Admiral Taverns had agreed with us a price and been kept informed about progress all along. We don't understand what more we could have done.”
Had Admiral informed the co-op about the situation, it could have negotiated a similar deal, he added.
The co-op intends to run the pub, which has had 10 landlords in as many years, as a community hub with a café, accommodation and a post office.