We have a Date!
The Appeal Tribunal hearing.
As you know we have been awaiting the date for the White Lion Owners’ appeal against the ACV decision made by SODC.
To give some background, the owner is using the Tribunal to attempt to overturn the ACV status given to the White Lion which ensures he must offer the community the opportunity to purchase the property IF he decides to sell it within a five year period.
So what is the Appeal Tribunal?
The Appeal is being heard by a judge at what is called a First Tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber. The First Tier Tribunals are part of the system of justice, where legal disputes are heard. There are seven Chambers, with Chambers for Property, Tax, Immigration and Asylum, the Armed Forces and two others. The General Regulatory Chamber is a bit of catch all, as it covers all sorts of matters, in fact almost any matter where there is some regulation or regulatory body, and where there can be circumstances when an appeal should be heard.
Into this General Chamber, falls our very own White Lion Asset of Community Value situation.
South Oxfordshire District Council has previously been the respondent, as it is in this case, for another ACV appeal heard at the same First Tier Tribunal in respect of The Crown at South Moreton. The circumstances there were not dissimilar to ours at the White Lion, in that a property developer bought the pub from the brewery, and then claimed it was unviable. In that case, interestingly, the brewery stripped out the kitchen equipment prior to selling it, whereas in our case Greene King left the kitchen in place, which would suggest that it was expected to have a future as a pub.
The appeal in respect of The Crown at South Moreton was lost by the developer, and ownership was successfully secured by the community. Anyone who has visited it, even on a wet winter Wednesday evening, will see that it is now an attractive, welcoming and well patronised venue.
The Appeal Tribunal is normally heard in a building somewhere off Friar Street in Reading, but this one is going to be a virtual hearing.
Each party in this case, SODC, Goring Heath Parish Council and the Owner have contributed to a bundle of documents, the evidence, which has been given to the other parties, and the Parish Council has also prepared a Witness Statement bringing things up to date, for example evidence of the hundreds of supporters that we have, and the offers of help, both physical and importantly financial, that have come forward.
In total there are over 200 pages in the bundle, of which about 30 or 40 are documents prepared by SODC and the Parish Council, focused on the issues relevant to the case in respect of the legislation covering ACV listings. The Owners’ evidence is also there.
Although the Parish Council is the second respondent, officially fronting, as it were, for the Community Group, the case is really the White Lion owner against the District Council. The Owner can be legally represented or decide to represent themselves.
We expect South Oxfordshire District Council, with their barrister, Michael Lee, who also acted in respect of the Crown appeal, to be extremely professional.
The long awaited Appeal by the owner against the decision by South Oxford District Council to list the White Lion as an Asset of Community Value is finally going to be heard on Monday November 30th. As courts are to remain open during the lockdown and this session is virtual anyway, we don't see it being changed.
The decision in The Crown at South Moreton case was given 10 days after the hearing, so perhaps a similar time frame can be expected in our case.
I am sure you will join us in thanking all the officials involved in our councils for all their hard work in representing us at this important event for the White Lion Community Pub project.