THE future of The Anchor pub in Knaphill has once again been thrown into serious doubt as developers prepare to submit a planning application that could lead to its closure and possible demolition.
Following an appeal made by lawyers acting on behalf of the venue’s owners, Premier Pubs Estate Ltd, the pub at the junction of High Street and Lower Guildford Road was stripped of its Asset of Community Value (ACV) status in December.
The ACV had been sought by the Surrey & Hants branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in response to requests from residents who feared for the future of the historical building in the community, and was granted in August.
This would have protected the pub for at least five years, but outside pressures saw the decision overturned at a hearing in December, when Peter Bryant, Head of the Woking Borough Council’s Democratic & Legal Services, concluded: “I determine that The Anchor inn should not have been included in the council’s list of Assets of Community Value on the basis that the nomination submitted was not a ‘community nomination’, so the requirements of Section 89 (1)(a) of the Localism Act 2011 has not been satisfied.”
Kevin Travers, officer for CAMRA, said: “We’re very disappointed and frustrated. The owners of the pub appear to have appealed on a technicality because we didn’t demonstrate that we would distribute any surplus funds locally and, on that basis, we were not eligible to make a nomination.
“All we are trying to do is to protect pubs like The Anchor in our local area so they can serve the community. It is incredibly disappointing that the local council has been cajoled in this way and as a result the protection the ACV status afforded to The Anchor is lost and there is a real threat the pub will be lost to housing as there is no opportunity to appeal.”
Kevin has also voiced his concerns in the Autumn/Winter edition of the CAMRA publication News & Ale, the Surrey & Hants Borders branch quarterly magazine stating: “With regards to The Anchor in Knaphill, we were asked by representatives of the local community if we could make an application as there was concern when developers announced plans to build a mix of residential and retail properties on the site of the pub.
“Although it would be fair to say the pub is currently at a low ebb, it does remain popular with younger people who have limited facilities in the area, and certainly has the potential to make a significant contribution to the local economy and social cohesion.”
Pub regular Jason Freeman, 32, told the News & Mail: “It would be a real shame if The Anchor shuts. It has a lot of potential and could once again become the hub of the local community if the owners used a bit of imagination and stopped listening to those killjoys who think that they are speaking on behalf of everyone in Knaphill.”
While landlady Angela Pearson, the mother of two young sons, has not been available for comment, another regular who asked not to be named said: “It would be a shame if the pub closes. We must also remember that it’s Angie’s home and all this news must be very unsettling for her.”
However, Steve McDicken, Managing Director of Metbase Ltd, the firm representing the pub’s buyers, said: “Premier Pubs Estate Ltd [the umbrella company] has been successful in getting the ACV lifted; we are back in contact with them about resurrecting the original deal.”
The initial proposals were aired last April when the News & Mail reported that specialists Metbase intended to hold a public exhibition for the prime site on Anchor Hill and for the Victorian building to be replaced with shops, new homes and a social housing provision if an application was successful.
“Project Director Keith Sowerby contacted residents’ publicising the exhibition, but this was cancelled at short notice when opposition from local residents was made public. Metbase then suggested the plans would be revised. However, following the ACV status the plans were put on the back burner.
On Tuesday 27 December CAMRA reported on Twitter that it is now calling on the Government to cut out the ACV process as it puts a huge burden on communities and local councils.