Save the Railway at Fourstones
An application for change of use to convert a Northumberland pub into houses is shortly to be decided. The Railway at Fourstones is one of three pubs on the Stanegate near Hexham. While the other two; the Boatside, Warden and the Red Lion, Newbrough are thriving the Railway which is remembered fondly for its Quiz League, its community events and for being, in the words of one regular, “the nicest pub in the Valley” has been closed since November 2015. Furthermore it is slipping daily into further dilapidation. There has obviously been little investment here over a number of years. Despite this it has attracted the attention of a number of potential licensees. Projects such as putting a microbrewery in the cellar or running a taxi service between the three pubs to aid community cohesion have been discussed. All plans have come to nothing following the owners’ rejection of potential buyers.
Strangely, since its closure, lack of investment (prior to and after the closure) and the cooling off of the property market, its asking price has continued to rise, buyers have continued to come forward and have continued to be rejected. One was purportedly offered the property “for free”. The catch? They would be responsible for putting right the dilapidation (around £90,000) and then, subject to whatever rental the owner of the pub decided in subsequent years.
Clearly the problem is not one of lack of investment but lack of the will to attract or allow investment. The pub is being allowed to die despite being granted Asset of Community Value (ACV) status. The purpose of an ACV is that local groups will be given time to come up with a bid for an asset when it is sold. However the right to bid only applies when an asset’s owner decides to dispose of it. There is no compulsion on the owner to sell it and the scheme does not give first refusal to the community group.
The owners have, it would appear, been fighting hard NOT to sell the pub. The motive for this could be its potential value if converted into dwellings. Equally it could be that interested parties from other local pubs are not keen on having another pub in the locality. Either way this is bad news for the people of Fourstones.
The verdict on the latest planning application to convert the pub into houses is due shortly. An update will follow and faith in the Railway at Fourstones will be kept.