Campaign to save 'iconic' village pub fails in bid to earn protected status

PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 October 2017

Campaigners gathered at the pub to protest the plans.

Campaigners gathered at the pub to protest the plans.


Attempts to save a village pub from demolition have been dealt a blow, after heritage experts opted against giving the building protected status.

The Lord Nelson in the 1970s. Picture: Yatton Local History Society archivesThe Lord Nelson in the 1970s. Picture: Yatton Local History Society archives

The Lord Nelson, in Cleeve, is subject to proposals to raze the 1930s building and replace it with a petrol station, convenience store, spa, offices, and a pub café.

The watering hole was bought by Tout Ltd last year, prompting villagers to form a campaign to secure its future.

But dialogue between the parties has become heated, and the campaign submitted a bid to Historic England (HE) to grant the building listed status which would have protected it from demolition.

Villagers argued the Lord Nelson’s storied history, which included it being used as a refuge for BBC stars like Jack Warner and Cyril Fletcher in World War Two, should mean the site is protected from being flattened.

Ian Fergusson.Ian Fergusson.

But HE has now announced it will not be adding the pub to its register of protected buildings.

A spokesman said: “Having carefully considered an application to list the Lord Nelson pub in Cleeve, we recommended the building does not meet the strict criteria for listing. The Secretary of State agreed with our advice.

“The Lord Nelson is a purpose-built pub constructed between 1934-1936. Its design was shaped by the ‘improved pub’ movement that followed the World War One but it has undergone insensitive alterations over the years. There are some surviving original fittings, such as wooden floors and fixed seating, but they are of a standard design found in many pubs of this period.

“We considered the pub’s associations during the World War Two with servicemen and BBC staff and actors who either drank or stayed at the pub, and the use of its cellar as an air-raid shelter, but this was not enough to justify listing.”

Jon Tout, managing director of Tout Ltd, said HE’s verdict came as ‘a great relief’.

He added: “Since purchasing the site following its closure by Greene King, we have been the subject of a stream of negative accusations and 
comments including claims that we have attempted to bribe local residents; that we have deliberately vandalised the site and even that our plans would put children’s lives at risk.

“Given HE’s decision, the time has now come to provide local residents with a more detailed insight into our proposals and perhaps encourage a more constructive, objective dialogue.

“To that end we will shortly be sending information about our plans to every house in the village.”

The pub is still protected by asset of community value (ACV) status which was granted by North Somerset Council in January. The ACV means planning permission is required for Tout’s plans to be materialised, closing a loophole where pubs can be converted to shops without council 

Ian Fergusson, a member of the campaign to save the pub, told the Mercury the ‘iconic’ building should still be preserved in some form despite HE’s decision.

He said: “Throughout all recent public narrative concerning the future of the Lord Nelson, I’ve been at pains to stress Cleeve villagers merely want Jon’s mixed use of the site – including a smaller viable pub – to be cleverly tied to preserving key local heritage.

“It’s important to stress that HE concluded its report ‘should not be seen to undermine the building’s interest from a more local perspective. The Lord Nelson has clear local interest’.

“We continue to hope that as a local firm, Tout Ltd has it in its heart to propose a scheme that retains part of the iconic building, such as the frontage which could house the smaller pub-café, whilst converting the rest.

“That is not an unreasonable balance to seek. The more specific notion of a 24-hour filling station as part of the plan is unlikely, however, to garner great favour amongst the majority of residents.”

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