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Traditional Chester pub gets extra protection in law

Campaign for Real Ale is behind listing of city centre pub

The Albion Inn, Albion Street, Chester.

A traditional back street pub has been given extra protection should the owners should ever put the watering hole up for sale or seek to change the building’s function.

The Albion Inn is the first pub in Chester city centre to be registered with Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

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This well known pub and B&B is run by landlord and leaseholder Mike Mercer along with his wife Christina and daughter Clare, with the freehold owned by Punch Taverns.

Listing the building in this way means the owner must inform the local authority if they wish to sell the asset. This is to give community groups the opportunity to make a bid for the building although the owner can ultimately sell their property to whoever they wish.

The ACV also has weight in terms of the planning system. For example, it means the owner would have to seek planning permission should they wish to demolish or change the building’s function.

Brian Vardy of Chester And South Clwyd CAMRA with Mike Mercer, landlord of The Albion Inn, in Albion Street, Chester.

Ian Williams, of CAMRA's Chester and South Clwyd branch, who instigated the listing, said: “Our application to list The Albion as an Asset of Community Value was prompted by a desire to recognise the unique place the pub has in the heart of the Chester community and indeed for visitors from further afield. The ACV listing is great news as it will go some way towards helping secure this fantastic local for future generations.”

The CAMRA branch's Pub Protection Group has helped local parish councils to list several rural pubs as ACVs and more listings are in the pipeline.

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Landlord Mike Mercer, 76, who has run The Albion for 45 years, commented: “It’s certainly made sure The Albion will stay even after I’ve gone, it will stay what it is. It won’t turn into an old people’s home, although I have to say that at the moment it probably is an old people’s home! It’s just a pity that some of the old hands over the years we’ve had here are not around to see it as well.”

CWaC said in its justification for the listing: “It is the opinion of the local authority that the actual current use of the building and adjacent land is furthering the social wellbeing and recreational interests of the local community and it is realistic to think this use can continue in the future.”

The interior of The Albion Inn, Albion Street, Chester.

Among the famous faces tempted into The Albion over the years include the Pet Shop Boys, film star James Mason, Paul Barber, who played Denzil in Only Fools and Horses, singer Tony Christie, and composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Another local pub listed as an ACV includes The Centurion at Vicars Cross where a developer was recently frustrated in its efforts to convert the pub into a 64-bed care home after the change-of-use planning application was refused by a planning inspector.

Others listed as ACVs in Cheshire West are The Golden Lion at Ashton Hayes, The Bird in Hand at Guilden Sutton, The Red Lion at Malpas, The Railway Inn at Helsby and The Greyhound at Saughall.

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CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is an independent, voluntary organisation campaigning for real ale, community pubs and consumer rights. The national organisation was formed in 1971 and Chester and South Clwyd, one of the first branches, is celebrating its 45th year during 2016. CAMRA currently has more than 177,000 members.

For more information, visit Chester & South Clwyd CAMRA website.

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