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ACV listing works to ultimately save a Maida Vale favourite?

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The pub formerly known as the Truscott Arms in Maida Vale, north west London will re-open as the Hero of Maida on 1 March 2018 as part of the Harcourt Inns Group of gastropubs.

The Truscott Arms closed on 4 August 2016 after the then tenant said that a 333% rent increase (amounting to extra £175,000 per annum) rendered the business unsustainable. The hike in rent appears to have been intended to override the pub’s Asset of Community Value (ACV) listing and enable it to be converted into luxury flats on account of:

  • the increased market rent (£250,000 per annum) being too much for any potential tenant to take on, making it not viable for the property to continue being used as a pub and opening it up to applications for other uses i.e. residential units; and
  • the supposed (inflated) value of the Property being too expensive for the community to acquire.

A local community group (represented by Dale Ingram of Planning for Pubs Ltd) was successful in its endeavours to have the Truscott Arms, a favourite local pub, listed as an ACV on 29 April 2015. Despite a successful challenge to this listing having been made by the then freehold owners of the pub and the pub being de-listed in August 2015, it was relisted in November 2015 and remains so today (expires 5 years from listing date).

The Friends of the Truscott Arms ACV reportedly relinquished its rights to attempt to acquire the pub themselves from the then freehold owner  – the Localism Act 2011 provides them with 6 months to attempt to do so – following assurances from the Harcourt Inns Group that they would re-open the Truscott Arms as a pub post acquisition with the intention being to “preserve this community hub and reinstate a spot for locals to come by and enjoy good food“.  Although it is not clear quite what part the ACV status had in securing the retention of the pub the issues raised by the listing clearly had an effect, and would have been a material consideration in any application for a non-pub use.

What is happening with ACV applications generally?  The pace and success of applications seems anecdotally to have slowed.  A review of the Westminster City Council website suggests that the Truscott Arms is just one of approximately 10 successful ACV nominations in the Borough since 2015, amounting to a nomination to listing success rate of 43.5% (with 13 of 23 nominations having been rejected). Interestingly, the website suggests that only 4 listing decisions (40%) have been challenged by the freehold owners, with only one other – in connection with The Prince of Wales Public House – having been successful in removing the ACV status of a Property.

The review decision for The Prince of Wales Public House dated June 2016 suggests that for there to be a realistic prospect that part of the building would, within the next 5 years, be put to a non-ancillary use that would further the social well being and interests of the local community there needs to be:

  • specific details about the types of activities that have taken place at the property in the recent past, when they took place and over what period to substantiate a non-ancillary use, particularly when the proposed non-ancillary use (i.e. music and dancing) could otherwise be seen as part of the general use of the public house; and
  • compelling evidence to contradict any existing evidence about the pub been the cause of anti-social behaviour and/or associated with criminal incidents in the recent past.

This approach may need to be reviewed.  It seems to focus a little too much on the past, rather than the future community use.  For more background information on ACVs please read some of our earlier blogs.