Residents go into battle with brewery to save historic pub

Dr Bob Bowes

THE NELSON ARMS pub in Tonbridge, which is facing closure, has been successfully classed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ (ACV) by the borough council, but the owners are fighting the classification.

Campaigners, representing the Barden Road area where the pub is based, submitted the ACV application in December after Shepherd Neame, which owns the premises, announced its intention to sell the property once current landlord Charlotte Gow leaves in March.

The ACV status triggers an initial moratorium period, meaning the property cannot be sold for six weeks.

Within that period, if the Barden community decide that they will attempt to raise the funds to buy the property, they can inform the council to extend the moratorium to six months.

Even if community funds are not forthcoming, the ACV status would mean that any proposal to turn the pub into residential premises would have to receive planning permission from Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC).

The council deemed that the pub met the two criteria for being classed as an ACV. It agreed that the current use of the building would ‘further the social well-being or social interest of the local community’ and it was also accepted that it is realistic to believe the building can continue to serve that purpose in the future.

Shepherd Neame has requested a review of the decision, which tTMBC Chief Executive Julie Beilby will complete by March 23.

A spokesman for the brewery said: “Unfortunately, The Nelson Arms has not proved to be a viable business and we are considering options for its future.

“We are bound by our industry code not to let pubs we deem unviable. In the circumstances, we consider the pub unsuitable for status as an Asset of Community Value.”

The Head of the Barden Residents’ Association, Mark Hood, who launched the campaign, said he was ‘disappointed’ by Shepherd Neame’s resistance and rejected its claims of economic unviability:

Mr Hood said: “We are concentrating on delivering a business model which will balance profitability with providing a community pub and cafe to the benefit of everyone.

“We are talking to the Campaign for Real Ale and other organisations to make The Nelson Arms a success for future generations. As a free house the pub will find it far more economical to balance the books and provide customers with a product they actually want to drink,” he argued.

He revealed that partial conversion of the property for residential use was being considered in order ‘to alleviate demand for accommodation within Barden and aid the viability of our enterprise’.


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