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.
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:
‘VARIATION OF CONDITION 10 OF PERMISSION 12/0221/FL (ERECTION OF 30 BED CARE HOME WITH ANCILLARY LOUNGE AND DINING FACILITIES ABOVE RETAINED PUBLIC HOUSE) TO REMOVE THE RESTRICTION AS A CARE HOME FOR THE ELDERLY AND ALLOW FOR RESIDENTIAL ACCOMMODATION AND CARE TO PEOPLE IN NEED OF CARE AND NURSING HOME – EXCLUDING ALCOHOL AND DRUG RELATED CARE.’
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.
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:
Public Meeting – Walsall CAMRA
FOUR CROSSES PUB
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.