James Murray Labour & Co-operative MP for Ealing North and Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury 8th February 2023 Blog Co-operative development Communities, Housing & Local Government Share Tweet The Black Horse pub in my constituency of Ealing North has been situated by the Grand Union Canal since 1726, almost three hundred years. It has always been a place where families, workers, and regulars from right across the local community come together. The pub is a valuable asset for the local community and is surrounded by current or recent construction sites where thousands of new homes are being built. There was therefore, deep concern around rumours that the pub’s owners, Fuller’s, were considering selling it off, and so I wrote to them in June last year to ask about their intentions. I have to say I was concerned by their reply. They were clear they would not rule out looking at alternatives to investing in the pub in the long term, and noted they thought it was “interesting” to see all the development nearby the pub. Frankly, their reply sent more alarm bells ringing, and so I launched petition in June 2021 to show Fuller’s how strongly people feel about the importance of protecting the Black Horse for the future. In less than a week, the petition had attracted well over a thousand signatures. I went on to call a public meeting in March 2022 to create a new ‘Protect the Black Horse’ group, attended by over 80 people. This meeting established ‘Protect the Black Horse’ as a constituted, non-for-profit community group set up to support efforts to protect the Black Horse pub. Over the last ten months, I and the other members of this group’s committee have been working together to apply to Ealing Council to get the pub listed as an asset of community value. I was very glad when, in August 2022, the Council approved our application, thereby adding the Black Horse to their register of assets for the next five years. I owe a huge debt of thanks to the Co-operative Party and to CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale – for their invaluable advice, making our application as strong as possible. But despite our success in listing the Black Horse as an asset of community value, our fears were correct. On 10 January, it was announced that Fuller’s would be closing the Black Horse with immediate effect. We always knew that having the pub listed as an asset of community value does not provide absolute protection, but it does offer the community an opportunity to buy the pub and the listing means the chances of it remaining a pub rather than being turned into flats are greater. The process of having the pub listed has also given the community a sense of empowerment to do what they can to save the pub and that is why I immediately arranged to speak with a senior Fuller’s Director. In my conversations with the Director, I conveyed the strength of feeling at the decision to close the pub amongst the local community. I also stressed that due to current planning laws and the pubs listing as an asset of community value, the pub does have some layers of protection. In response, it was confirmed that they are planning to sell the Black Horse as a pub and that is why we are now making efforts to garner potential interest from pub companies to see whether they would consider continuing to run it as a pub. Whilst the asset of community value legislation has empowered many in the local community, more must be done to strengthen it. That is why the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Lisa Nandy MP, and the Co-operative Party have proposed a new ‘Community Right to Buy’. This stronger right would mean that, rather than being one bidder amongst others, the community would have first refusal on buying the asset. It would be accompanied by an extension of the current moratorium period on a sale from six months to 12, to help communities in acquiring finance. By strengthening the legislation in this way and others, we would be able to make sure that people across the country gain greater control over what happens to pubs and other important places in our local communities. Too often we hear of pubs and other important social assets simply being sold off and lost to the local community. A mission of the next Labour Government, with support from the Co-operative Party, must be to give people in local villages, towns, and cities across the country the crucial control they need to help protect the community assets that bind them together.