Crossed purposes again


I spotted the Four Crosses had closed on April 29th, 2015, and posted accordingly on my 365daysfbiking journal.

This is a post to get some facts out there relevant to a situation that I’ve been watching grow with some dismay for a few weeks now.

On or around April 29th 2015, the Four Crosses Pub – the last true boozer in Shelfield, and a popular local pub I’ve enjoyed in the past – closed suddenly, and was boarded up. This has caused understandable outrage amongst pub-goers and real ale fans in the area.

I know nothing of why the pub closed, and m not going to speculate about the direct cause of that here. What I will point out are the facts of planning applications regarding the building and land around it.

I will point out here and now that I have no connection to the pub, the protest campaign(s), Walsall CAMRA or indeed, the building owners or developers. The opinions and links provided here are from research undertaken specifically out of my own interest.

Since 2012, there has been granted planning permission (ref 12/0221/FL) to build a 30 bed care home for the elderly on land behind, and adjoining the pub. Local ale buff The Stymaster covered the somewhat unusual application in a blog post at the time. The grant of this application can be directly viewed on Walsall Council’s planning system here. The application talks of retaining the ground floor as a pub.

That application was approved and cannot be reversed now.

In response to this, community activists sensed the pub was in danger, and fought to get the place listed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, a toothless status that recognises the value of the pub to the community, but in reality offers little protection; all it decrees is that if the pub is put on the market, the sale can be held for a period until activists can raise the money to buy it. The owner is not even compelled to sell it to them.

In reality, ACV status is a sop to localism and just buys time.

Nothing happened with the application for a long time; I’d considered it a few times and thought it dead and buried. Then, last December an application was made to vary the conditions of the previous plan, to widen the scope of who could be accommodated in the care home: the request was to change it from purely elderly, to those in need of general care.

This application was reference14/1858/FL, and the covering letter detailing the change can be viewed here, direct from Walsall Council Planning server. The letter is fairly clear that it wants the condition to allow admission of those in medical need, but not Class C2A which would be secure treatment.

(A list of planning ‘classes’ can be seen here).

At the moment, taking people who are ‘bed blocking’ out of the hospital system (regardless of age) is a growing, lucrative service. I suspect this is the aim. That’s just a hunch, and have nothing other than the applications listed here to confirm that.

At the time, a rumour spread locally that the home was to be a bail hostel, mental care facility, or to be used for drug or alcohol rehabilitation, and anger was expressed on social media and petitions raised.

The application for condition relaxation was withdrawn as a result, after the applicant protested that that wasn’t the plan.

A subsequent application was submitted on the 6th March 2015, again requesting the change, but explicitly stating the facility would not be used for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, clearly in response to local protest.

The application is reference 15/0368/FL and listed as:


The covering letter for this can be read here – the application has not been decided yet and has yet to be considered.

The care home can still be built, as it has valid approval, but at the moment can only take specifically the elderly, as per the 2012 application approval.

There is an application currently waiting to be considered, requesting the nursing home be able to take anybody in need of nursing care, specifically excluding secure treatment (C2A) and drug and alcohol patients.

That’s the facts.

The reason I point this out is because last week, I spotted this notice on a telegraph pole in Shelfield.


Unfortunate, and inaccurate, sadly.

The sign is incorrect, and any petition signed with similar wording will be rejected out of hand, as no application has been made to treat such patients – in fact, they’ve been specifically excluded.

If people are to fight such applications in the community, it’s vital that the information used to mobilise opposition is correct – otherwise developers can and will tear the opposition case to pieces.

The fact is that the Four Crosses was a popular and well loved community pub. I understand and agree with the desire to keep it. That’s absolutely understandable, and any community would fight tooth and nail to keep it.

However, there’s a wider question: Asset of Community Value status can’t really protect the pub, and is irreverent if ownership hasn’t changed, anyway. The pub is now boarded up, with major works being undertaken out back. The people who own the building (who one must assume caused it’s vacation) clearly don’t want it run as a pub at the moment.

I don’t see any legal method of forcing someone to run a business they don’t want to. If the building is not for sale, the law cannot force it to be sold; and likewise, if it is for sale, who would buy it and operate it? Any sale would presumably involve compensation for loss from the development opportunity attached to it.

It’s a big old mess, and I hope it can be sorted – but I’m at a loss to see how, frankly.

There is indeed a public meeting about this tonight (Monday 11th May 2015) at St. Marks Church Hall, Green Lane, Shelfield – it starts at 7:30pm.

In a flyer bearing the signature of Keith Watkins of Walsall CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), it specifically points out that the meeting is not to discuss the issue of the care home.

Walsall CAMRA and Councillor Richard Worrall are a decent folks whom I like, respect and support. I also support their fight to save the Crosses, and I recommend you attend the meeting if you care about it. However, I’d advise those protesting to familiarise themselves with the planning facts of the matter, otherwise any protest based on hearsay will be doomed.

Walsall CAMRA’s publicity states:


Walsall CAMRA publicity for the public meeting; image taken from the group’s Facebook page.

Public Meeting – Walsall CAMRA


Tho Four Crosses has landmarked the centre ot Shelfield for over 100 years and has been at the heart of its social community. Not only is It part of Shelfield’s history, It Is the only pub left.

Its sudden unannounced closure and boarding-up ls a callous act against Its staff and the people of Shelfled

Supported by Cllr. Richard Worrall, Walsall Campaign for Real Ale are holding a Public Meeting as follows:

St. Marks Church, Green Lane
7:30pm on Monday 11th May 2015

A petition wlll be launched, to request that the four Crosses permanently remains a pub and remains open.

Even if you are not a pub goer, life will be lost trom the village if the Four Crosses goes. Please come and have your say and support us.

Please note this meeting is not to discuss the issue ot the care home, which is being dealt with separately.

Keith Watkins
Walsall CAMRA

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9 Responses to Crossed purposes again

  1. stymaster says:

    I’d argue the ACV is less than a way to buy time: as you point out, if no ownership change happens, then the ACV has no effect, so it only works if (for example) an owner sells a pub to developers rather than developing themselves. Presumably, if the owner does the care home conversion, as allowed by planning, then sells it, not a damned thing will be able to change that; though the planning application does state that the pub is retained- but will anyone take it on in that state? I would suspect not, opening the door to complete the transformation into a home entirely, I’d speculate. It’s a sad case, but at the end of the day, if the owner wishes to do this and planning permission exists, then he or she should be free to do so, no matter how distasteful we all might find it- and I’m saying that as a fairly regular customer of the pub.

    It would be interesting to see if the owner makes any statement about their intentions.

    • Yes, thanks.

      I see ACV as a heatsink like local listing. Gaining ACV status is hard work, and is marketed as a form of protection.

      It offers little, but everyone feels they’ve achieved something.

      That feels us more about current government attitudes to planning than anything else.


  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Thanks, Bob. This is well set out. Stymaster is right, too. For a long time it was hoped that the Use Classes Order would provide a separate category for pubs that would enable refusal of planning permission for alternative uses, subject to obvious provisos. This has not been catered for (and won’t be under a Conservative government). Walsall Council did its best to enforce a policy along those lines and refused planning permission to redevelop The Buccaneer at Streetly for a care home. Despite the policy itself being approved by the Planning Inspectorate the Council’s decision was overturned at an appeal hearing. The appellant even tried to argue that an alternative existed close by in Streetly Sports Club, but that is a private members club, was oversubscribed, and applications closed.

    Presumably, in the case of the Four Crosses the landowner thinks his interest will be better served by selling on to a care home operator and, as pointed out, there is no means (nor should there be) of forcing someone not to maximise the value of their assets within the framework set down by law, regulation and policy.

    The market theory upon which the planning system has been based for most of its history would claim that if there is sufficient demand for a pub in Shelfield then someone will build one (assuming they are unable to outbid the care home operator). I suspect the future is not bright for the public house.

  3. peter says:

    Morning, I know nothing of planning and matters of policy regarding change of use etc etc, I leave that up to the experts, however the owners of the pub would not be considering it’s options if there was plenty of custom in the pub, if this is the last pub in Shelfield and it’s not considered viable then maybe there’s not enough business in Shelfield? As Andy states why shouldn’t the owner change his asset to another use, within the law etc, to either create or maximise profit? The owner of the pub exists to make profit not act as a local charity.
    We’ve discussed many a time footfall and local custom especially concerning Brownhills high street, someone said “use it or lose it” the same is true for Shelfield also.
    Still sad to see though, I admire the stance taken by CAMRA in trying to mobilise the local community to demand the pub remain open but isn’t it the same local community who aren’t using the pub that has led to this situation?
    All the best.


    • Peter

      With all due respect, a little thought here goes a long way.

      The Crosses is a very well used pub, which I suspect to be more viable than most. As the last pub standing, it was regularly rammed.

      However, the earnings from a pub are unlikely to compete with those from a 30 bed nursing home, even if built and merely sold on.

      Had it been a case of underuse, I would have pointed this out. I’m sure Stymaster will attest, it was a busy, well-loved house.


      • stymaster says:

        Indeed. The pub was well-used in general- certainly, to my mind enough to make a going concern, but Bob’s right, a 30-bed care home will generate more income, I’d say.

  4. peter says:

    Thank you Bob for your explanation…… if it is regularly rammed and suspected to more viable than most, then is it simply a case of the current owner wanting to change the use to create greater profits than those achieved now I wonder? If thats the case then other pubs in the same viable position would also be under threat from the potential of change of use, in this case a care home, to generate even greater profits.

    • Yes, that’s the case. Property is increasing in value and one of the reasons we lose pubs and the like is because there’s more to be earned in redevelopment than there is in running a pub.

      It’s a threat that’s compounded the decline of the industry, and why not just poorly used pubs are at risk


  5. Gordon Higham says:

    Sorry to hear this pub has closed. Spent many happy times there. Always pop in when I’m in the area to meet up with a few locals! I wish those luck who are opposing the closure

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