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Cambridgeshire village fights to retain its ‘local’

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Cambridgeshire has at any one time two dozen pubs for sale – but in one village it’s the parish council that is fighting to keep it local.

Sawston parish council nominated The White Lion to become an Asset of Community Value and was accepted onto the list by South Cambridgeshire District Council in December 2020.

There it would have stayed but with the owners now wishing to sell, the district council has stepped up to the mark to create a window in which it can be bought by villagers.

A council spokesperson said a “six-week interim moratorium” has been triggered to allow for the community to come forward with a plan.

The moratorium ends on April 24 and “during this period any constituted community organisation can put forward a written expression of interest if they wish to be considered as a potential bidder for the property.

“If an expression of interest is received the full moratorium period ending on Wednesday 13 September 2023 will be triggered, giving the community time to complete the business planning and finances to support their bid.

“Any bid put forward will have to compete on the open market.”

The village – seven miles south of Cambridge – can use the Localism Act of 2021 to potentially retain the High Street pub.

Once added to the list, a charge is placed against the building or land and the owner must inform the district council when they intend to sell it so the community can be informed and given six months to put together a bid to purchase it and keep it in community use.

That has now happened.

Sawston villagers must compete on the open market and the owner doesn’t have to accept this bid. The aim is to give time for the business plan and financing to be organised to support a community bid.

The council spokesperson said: “If an eligible group with a local connection steps forward with intent to bid for the pub before 5pm on Monday 24 April 2023, the sale will be paused until Wednesday 13 September 2023

“This gives the local group time to prepare a business plan and raise finances to make a bid.”

If no bids are received, the pub will enter a period of protection, ending on Friday 13 September 2024. During this period, the pub can be sold to anyone, on the open market, without further delay.

“The Government legislation was put into place to help communities to take over assets and land of local significance, such as local pubs, shops, and recreation grounds, and keep them in community use,” said the spokesperson.

Further details are available on South Cambridgeshire District Council’s website at www.scambs.gov.uk/acv

The council’s website also has details of the Right to Bid process and assets listed on the register in South Cambridgeshire.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet member for communities, Cllr Bill Handley, said: “Pubs are often at the heart of their communities and understandably valued by residents.

“Now that the owner of The White Lion in Sawston has signalled their intention to sell, and because it is listed as an Asset of Community Value, our role is to make sure that the people of the village are aware of the situation and see whether the community would like to purchase it.

“If there is a group who wants to keep this pub as a community asset, I would encourage them to step forwards now and formally register their intention to bid.

“By doing so, it will then give them the time to prepare a business plan and raise funds to subsequently make a bid. South Cambridgeshire District Council’s communities officers will offer help and advice to any group thinking of bidding.”

District Councillor for Sawston, Cllr Libby Earle, added: “Identifying an amenity, such as a village pub, as an Asset of Community Value provides breathing space for the community to acquire it and continue its use. It would be wonderful if this could happen for the White Lion.”

Fellow District Councillor for Sawston, Cllr Brian Milnes, commented: “Sawston is a large village that has unfortunately seen a few pubs close in recent years. It would be disappointing to lose another one.

“The White Lion does have currently un-used planning permission to add accommodation too, so there is certainly some un-tapped potential there.”

To put forward an expression of interest please email partnerships@scambs.gov.uk or send a letter to:

Community Right to Bid

Communications and Communities Team

South Cambridgeshire District Council

South Cambridgeshire Hall

Cambourne Business Park

Cambourne

CB23 6EA

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