A community with a proven record of rallying together has launched a campaign to save its pub from residential redevelopment.
The owner of The Golden Lion – which closed its doors to customers two years ago – in Ashton Hayes has applied for planning permission to convert it into three homes and construct two homes from scratch on the site.
Villagers want to buy the site themselves as a cooperative and reinstate it as a pub, as well as using it as a ‘nerve centre’ for the community where activities and parish council meetings can be held.
Resident Kate Harrison explained: “There are many examples of successful community-owned pubs throughout Britain and over 1,600 have also been registered as Assets of Community Value.
“We know that new homes are needed but not at the expense of valued village services.
“Ashton Hayes has a lot of experience in running community enterprises so we are confident we could restore the Golden Lion to its rightful place in the village life.”
Ashton Hayes is something of a leader in social enterprise with its community shop and cafe, and most recently being hailed by the New York Times for its Carbon Neutral Project.
Willing to consider offers
But the pub’s owner John Miller says he will consider any offer to sell The Golden Lion – which has been earmarked as an Asset of Community Value – if it matches what he believes it is worth.
Mr Miller explained that he bought the pub around three years ago and ran it for one year, but it was making a loss, so he had to close it.
“I bought the pub to run as a profitable business,” he said.
“But it had to close because the community did not support it financially.
“I was working from 9am to midnight, but even New Year’s Eve – which is meant to be the most profitable night of the year – ran at a loss.
“I am not willing to give it away and I am not willing to open it up again because it is unprofitable.
“At the moment it is just a dilapidated pub but the development would turn an eyesore into two lovely cottages and three lovely houses where the pub is and improve the village.”
A design and access statement which supports Mr Miller’s application to Cheshire West and Chester Council for planning permission says: “The proposals present the opportunity to conserve a historic community landmark and provide a new desirable use which is in demand and will ensure future maintenance occurs.”
Residents behind the campaign are inviting other villagers to attend a meeting at Ashton Hayes Primary School at 7pm on Friday (September 9) to discuss the proposal.