Town council supports registration of Highlands Inn as ‘Asset of Community Value’

Update on Wednesday, June 24: Uckfield Town Council has supported nomination of The Highlands Inn, Ridgewood, as an “Asset of Community Value”.

At a meeting on Monday councillors welcomed the nomination and their views are to be forwarded to Wealden Council which will make a decision on whether to approve the request.

From our original story published on Friday, June 19: The Highlands Inn, Ridgewood, has been nominated as an “Asset of Community Value”.

If Wealden District Council approves the request, a “Community Right to Bid” would be triggered were the pub to come up for sale.

Wealden District Council, which maintains the register of “community assets”, is seeking comments from the owner, leaseholder and Uckfield Town Council.

The district council has said it plans to make a decision before July 22. It will be an administrative decision, following government guidelines.

The application for the Highlands Inn has been made by the Uckfield Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group.

Richard Judge, chairman of the group, told Uckfield News the application was made to prevent the possibility of its use being changed to a convenience store without the need to go through public consultation and planning process.

This concern arose because of a fallback position identified in documents supporting an appeal against refusal of permission for a Morrisons store in the grounds of the Highlands Inn.

One of the documents said: “It is the case that under Permitted Development rights, a change of use of a public house to retail can occur without the need for any planning application.

“There are no restrictive conditions or otherwise on the Highlands Inn site which would prevent such a change of use being udertaken under Permitted Development rights.

“As such, should Spirit Pub Company wish, it would be entitled to install Morrisons into a conversion of the Highlands Inn utilising all of the existing Highlands Inn car park for car parking associated with the new convenience store.”

The document concluded: “”Whilst there is no suggestion at the current time that Spirit would implement this fall back position, this is an option that would be open to the company should this appeal fail and is a material consideration to this appeal.”

Wealden District Council declined to discuss with what the effect of the Highlands becoming an “Asset of Community Value” might have in relation to the plan to build a convenience store on part of the car park.

It said it would not be right to comment at a time when the planning appeal was in process

How it works

Rules about the “right to bid” were established by the Localism Act of 2011.

Property considered for listing must “further the social well-being or interests of the local community, or have done so in the last five years and be likely to do so in the future. This use may include the provision of public, sport, recreation, culture or community services”, says the district council website.

It continues: Once Wealden District Council is notified that the owner of land on the ‘list of community assets’ intends to dispose of the listed asset, we will publicise this on this website, with the local parish council, and inform the group that made the original nomination. There is a window of six weeks for any formally constituted groups (not just the nominating group) to notify us if they would like to make a bid on the property.

“If notice of an intention to make a bid is received then a protected period (‘moratorium’) of six months is activated. During this time the property owner may not sell or otherwise dispose of the asset unless to a community group that fits the criteria listed above. At the end of the six month period the owner may choose to sell the property to whomever they choose – the Community Right to Bid does not give a right of first refusal to community organisations.”

You can read more background details here


*The Highlands Inn is owned by the Spirit Group and leased by the Ridley Family. They took on a 20-year lease last autumn and transformed the interior of the pub and its menus. See story here

*A planning application to build a convenience store on part of the pub car park was turned down by Wealden District Council. An inspector was appointed to hear Spirit’s appeal against refusal. No decision has been reached.

*Suffolk-based Greene King, a brewery and pub/restaurant chain, is close to securing a deal to take over Spirit.

*A number of other pubs in East Sussex have been listed as “Assets of Community Value”, including the Roebuck at Laughton, the Lamb at Ripe and in the Lewes district, the Anchor at Ringmer and Jolly Sportsman at East Chiltington.

*One of the most prominent buildings on the Wealden list is Pine Grove, Crowborough, former offices of the district council.

Previous applications in Uckfield

1. Selby Meadow has been listed on the register.

2. An unsuccessful nomination to have Uckfield Bowls Club listed, which has to leave its site at Oaklea Way, was made last year.

It was refused because the land is “connected to residential accommodation with both the land and residence owned by a single owner and every part of the land can be reached from the residence without having to cross land which is now owned by that single owner” [Wealden District Council].

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