Eckington Council fights for town centre pub

Eckington Parish Council have started a campaign to save a local pub on the town’s high street.

The Duke of York pub has been closed for several months now, but with the real estate agency now saying the pub could be turned into housing, councillors knew they had to act.

First discussed at a parish council meeting in October, they put together a small group of councillors to concentrate on the pub and work out what they could do to guarantee its future in the town centre.

They can now confirm that they have applied for the pub to become an asset of community value (ACV), which prevents the owner from changing its use without applying for planning permission, as well as giving the community six months to buy it if the owner intends to sell.

Cllr Carolyn Renwick, one of the people involved with the campaign, said: “It would be a real shame to lose an establishment that potentially would have benefit to the community. We’ve got quite a lot of housing planned for the local area, so I don’t think that we desperately need some dwellings for housing on our high street.”

Town centres across the UK have seen visits drop by 17% due to online stores and retail parks, causing market towns to try and attract people back to the area, including investment in businesses such as local cafes and pubs to attract younger, “foodie” audiences.

Cllr Esther Fisher, another person involved, said: “In other areas pubs are thriving, doing good food, good beer, and different types of drinks. I think there is definitely potential for that in Eckington, there’s lots of young people, lots of families, and lots of working people that want somewhere to drink, and they shouldn’t have to travel out of the area for that.”

The pub is currently for sale at £235,000, which would have to be sourced through government funding and grants, such as the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, which provides funding for former mining communities.

Money would also be needed to renovate the inside of the pub, as well as deciding on who would run it and what they would do with the upstairs flat.

Cllr Jeremy Kenyon, the main person behind the campaign, said: “There’s so much pent up demand in Eckington that isn’t being achieved. There’s two ways to go, one way is to become a dormitory town. That is a very natural way for us to end up, but it’s really unfortunate for your local community.

“Regenerating Eckington is important if we want to be a community at all.”

One inspiration to how a business can thrive in Eckington is The Lounge coffee bar, which now has plans to expand, as well as opening on evenings due to its popularity.

Cllr Kenyon added: “If we’re right, and there is a demand for it, it’ll do very well. If you’re a destination with multiple options, you get positive benefits for everybody.”