Lads of the Village 1910The Full Council meeting on Wednesday 21st June discussed the future of The Lads of the Village Pub following notification that the long-standing landlord has been served notice to evict the premises by November 2023. This included consideration of potential measures to protect the building as a local heritage landmark and the pub as a valuable community service.

The Lads of the Village Public House is located on Elizabeth Street at the junction with Church Hill. It was built in 1793 and became a licensed premises in 1833. Sean Holland has been the landlord at the pub for over four decades and was previously awarded by the council for his outstanding service to the parish. The reason provided in support of the eviction was to enable the freeholder to demolish or reconstruct the premises, which they could not do reasonably without obtaining possession of the holding. It seems there is also a possibility that a new tenant could occupy the premises. This news presents a concern for the parish as the total number of pubs has diminished from eight to just three, despite the population growth more than doubling in size during the same period. These closures have reduced the number of pubs serving the parish to three: The Wharf at Crossways, The Bull at Horns Cross and the Lads of the Village. The Lads of the Village is the only pub that is not part of a wider brewery chain. The Brent Old Boys Club on London Road is also a licensed members club. 

Lads of the Village 1930Pubs play an important role in the social fabric of communities. They provide meeting places, supporting formal and informal social networks, and a focal point for community events. They also play a key role in supporting local economies, and in providing residents and visitors with access to information and services. Going to pubs can benefit people who are at risk of isolation and loneliness, such as older men, or who want to socialize and enjoy music or sports. Pubs can also promote a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, and help people cope with mental health issues by sharing problems. According to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), community pubs generate social value ranging from around £20,000 to £120,000 per pub. Each pub is also estimated to contribute £80,000 to the economy annually. Pubs were adversely impacted by the recent Covid pandemic and have also suffered from the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and increasing energy costs, which have led to a reduction in profits, making some pubs no longer viable.

Members of the public were invited to speak about their views and experiences of the pub. They noted that the Lads of the Village was considered by many to be the heart of the village. It serves as a meeting place for friends and relatives, as well as a number of clubs and societies including two veterans football teams, darts teams and a war society. The pub often has live music and has raised thousands of pounds for cancer research.

The Lads of the Village pub is also regarded as a local heritage landmark in a village setting, which would represent a loss to the local landscape if demolished. A planning application for the erection of two 3 bed semi-detached dwellings with associated parking and amenity space, and creation of new access was permitted in 2018. Reserved matters were approved in 2022 but to date seemingly only minor groundworks have been carried out at the site. 

Dartford Borough Council has its own concerns regarding the loss of pubs in the borough and has introduced new policy in the emerging local plan to increase protection through ensuring sufficient marketing of a pub has been undertaken which demonstrates it is not viable as a public house or for local community use before conversion or redevelopment for non-essential community use will be considered. 

Some measures are available to parish councils to prevent the loss of pubs impacting the community. From a planning perspective, the council can take action to have the pub listed as a local heritage asset due to its longstanding physical presence in the village. While this would not prevent redevelopment, nor demolition in certain circumstances, it would become a material consideration in assessment of any planning application relating to the site. From a community service prospect, the council has the power under the Localism Act to nominate the pub as an Asset of Community Value as the principal use of the asset furthers community’s social well-being or social interests (which include cultural, sporting or recreational interests) and is likely to do so in the future. Lads of The Village 2011

Once an asset has been listed nothing further will happen unless and until the owner decides to dispose of it, either through a freehold sale, or the grant or assignment of a qualifying lease (i.e. originally granted for at least twenty-five years). When a listed asset is to be sold, local community groups will in many cases have a fairer chance to make a bid to buy it on the open market. However, these provisions do not restrict in any way who the owner of a listed asset can sell their property to, or at what price. The provisions also do not place any restriction on what an owner can do with their property, once listed, so long as it remains in their ownership. This is because it is planning policy that determines permitted uses for particular sites. However, the fact that the site is listed may affect planning decisions – it is open to the Local Planning Authority to decide whether listing as an asset of community value is a material consideration if an application for change of use is submitted, considering all the circumstances of the case. 

Members discussed the importance of the pub and agreed that nominating it as an asset of community value would be beneficial to protect the provision, which would give the local community time to look into further options regarding its long-term management.