First pub in Hitchin to be granted community asset status

Emily Piper & Ron Piper at the Sir John Barleycorn, which has been registered as a community asset

Emily Piper & Ron Piper at the Sir John Barleycorn, which has been registered as a community asset - Credit: Archant

A pub which has been at the heart of a community since the 1800s has been granted community asset status.

The Sir John Barleycorn pub in Oughtonhead Way, Hitchin, is the first pub in the town to have been given the status after the Oughton Green Community Regulars, a community group who regularly use the pub, decided to safeguard the future of the pub against development.

Community asset status means communities can ask the council to list certain assets as being of value to the community. If an asset is listed and then comes up for sale, the community will be given six months to put together a bid to buy it.

Although it could be bought by an outsider, the status also means it will have to remain as a pub for at least the next five years.

License holder Ron Piper, who has run the pub for the past 10 years, said: “It only takes 21 people to apply for a community asset status. A lot of the regulars have seen various pubs in the town either close or put up for sale or developed on and they don’t want to see it happen to this pub so they applied and were granted it.”

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The pub, which is owned by Punch Partnerships Limited, is one of the oldest pubs in the town and has been serving the community for nearly 150 years.

Mr Piper said: “Having this status means the pub would have to remain as a public house for five years and would not allow developers or a supermarket chain to build or change it. It is definitely a pleasing result and I am really pleased for the community.”

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The father-of-one, who runs the pub with his daughter, Emily, added: “The point is that it is only safe if it used. It means that they can’t take it from under the community’s feet but it does not stop them from selling it to another landlord.”

Mr Piper, who has been in the Hitchin pub industry for the past 28 years, said he had seen a decline in the pub trade in that drinking habits had changed with more and more people buying their alcohol from supermarkets and drinking at home or when they go to restaurants.

He added: “Unfortunately local pubs have suffered the worst. We are really lucky here in that this is family run pub and has a great community feel to it.”

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