The New Clarence, Hull: Campaigners celebrate £300,000 government grant to create Hull's first community-owned pub

Campaigners are celebrating a £300,000 government award towards Hull's first community-owned and run pub.

A group of former regulars and pub enthusiasts set up Hull Community Pub Society Ltd, aiming to secure the freehold of The New Clarence, on Charles Street, near the New Theatre.

They say they are “absolutely delighted” at receiving £299,845 from the Community Ownership Fund, which is aimed at groups trying to save assets of risk of loss. On top they’ve raised another £112,000 through a share issue.

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However developers who bought the pub last year, say they have their own plan to save the building, and want to turn it into a 20-bed house in multiple occupation (HMO), with a pub on the ground floor.

The New Clarence lit upThe New Clarence lit up
The New Clarence lit up

They insist they don’t want to sell it to the campaigners.

Last August the campaigners got the building declared an asset of community value. In October they were given six months to put together a bid to buy the pub after the owners indicated they were going to dispose of the property.

Secretary Catherine Murray said the pub had been a “unique space” offering food and drink and a meeting space for people, with many clubs, societies and community groups using the first floor function room. Over 150 pubs across the country are now community-owned and Ms Murray said none had failed so far.

She said: “The financial model is more sustainable - there is no need for profit, there’s no rent to pay and it’s not tied so you are free to buy goods from the best supplier. You may qualify for business rate reduction as it’s not for profit. People also volunteer, so staffing costs are lower.

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"The owners previously described the pub as not viable and there is a current appeal against the refusal of planning permission for a 29-bed HMO. We believe their intention remains for it to be a full HMO. We feel we have the support of the community and that’s evidenced by the numbers buying shares and objecting to the owners’ plans.”

Chris Dale, director of Kingston Apartments, said they’d seen the pub’s gradual decline and thought it would be a “great option” to house NHS overseas staff. In a statement Mr Dale said their plans would provide food, real ale and community events, as well as a ground-floor function room with disabled access.

He said many pubs had people living upstairs and they had commissioned a full sound attenuation scheme “which means all standards of noise separation will be exceeded”. He said: “Whilst we remain aware that a sale may be forced to happen at some stage, we do not want to sell it to the founders or their organisation that has inflicted so much unnecessary negativity towards us as a business and as individuals.”

He accused its leaders of closing down any compromise suggestion or request for mediation, adding: “We now find them offering shares to effectively buy a pub they do not own.

"They have even launched their own rival planning application, again on a property they do not own. Whilst we understand their passion, this has felt very hostile at times.”

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