The future of the Hope Inn on Taunton road is hanging in the balance at the moment. As pub after pub around the town disappears into piles of rubble only to be followed by planning applications for housing developments, a desperate attempt by the Town council, Civic Society and Sedgemoor District Council by way of the Governments ‘Community Right to Bid’ legislation is being tried to prevent the loss of an iconic building.
Following representations by the Civic Society to Bridgwater Town Council a joint working party was set up to identify and attempt to save key buildings in the town. The working party, under the chairmanship of Westover councillor Brian Smedley, was faced with a crisis as soon as it formed with notices of proposed demolition for the Hope inn followed by builders on site who appeared to be removing the roof.
Notice served on the owners
The Working Party voted to ask Sedgemoor District Council to recognise the Hope as “an asset of community value” and register it under the legislation. Cllr Smedley says “The intention at this stage was to compel the owner to show their hand and reveal what plans they had for the property. If this was to re-open the place like for like,with continued similar community use then we would have achieved our goal.“
On Monday 29th September Cllr Smedley and Town Clerk Alan Hurford took the case to the Sedgemoor Community Assets Panel who voted to support them and notice was immediately served on the owners ‘Enterprise Inns’.
Sedgemoor Valuer Tim Mander explains “The owner now has 8 weeks to lodge an appeal against the decision so until that period has been exhausted the decision cannot be confirmed. The owner, who served notice of demolition in April, has now told me that they are not demolishing but just taking down an “unsafe roof“.
Community offer needed
Cllr Smedley said “We have done all that we can within the regulations available . It sends a message that we’re taking this seriously. If we’re succesful we can get a 6 months stay of execution BUT this still means that someone from the community still has to come forward with an alternative offer. I remain unconvinced that this legislation will do the job the Government say they put it in place to do. There are cases of village inns not far from here with a local community in a far better financial position to save their pubs, raising the funds, putting a package together and still not being successful.“
At the Full Sedgemoor council meeting of 1st October Cllr Smedley rose to challenge portfolio holder Cllr John Swayne (Con, North Petherton) about the viability of the legislation . Cllr Swayne replied that it was “..Almost a pointless exercise because the legislation was short in powers“ but added that he “Looked to Government to enhance these powers to make it work“. Cllr Swayne went on to say that SDC was in the process of approaching all Parish and Town Councils to nominate key buildings to them via the Heritege officer Kathryn Goodliffe.
Bridgwater South County Councillor Leigh Redman urged quicker action saying “The Black Horse in Hamp was derelict for sometime and now it’s a heap of rubble. We need to be more pre-emptive. When a building is derelict for a period of time it becomes a target for vandalism.“