Local community pub threatened with demolition

30th June 2018
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Local community pub threatened with demolition

The Blundell Arms was a popular family pub in Birkdale. It had looked set to be given a new lease of life as a ‘Community Pub’ under the government’s More Than A Pub programme. However, fears are growing that the pub’s owner may end up selling the property to a Blackpool based property develop, who submitted a higher bid.

A community group, led by local man Jason McCormack, have plans to relaunch the Blundell Arms. Jason, Chair of the Blundell Arms Community Pub Limited, planned a major refurbishment of the property in Upper Aughton Road. “We were going to use the venue as a Dementia Café during the daytime and had plans in place for a Wheelchair accessible Farm Garden. It would still have been a traditional pub in the afternoon and evenings but with new attractions such as Distil Your Own Gin days and regular pop up markets in the community rooms upstairs.”

But the owners of the pub, Blue Star Pubs and Bars, have turned down the bid put forward by the local community group and are instead selling it to a property developer who will demolish the building and build residential houses.

“We were invited to increase our bid, but if we’d got involved in a bidding war we wouldn’t have had the cash left over to fund the community projects” said Jason. We just can’tafford to compete with someone planning to build housing on the site. We made a fair offer for the pub as a business and had hoped Star Pubs would work with us to make the pub great again. Unfortunately they are selling the pub as a development site. This means that we could lose the last family pub in Birkdale, a place for family and friends to meet rather than eat. The pub was in so many ways the heart and soul of our community.”

Blundell Arms was popular with workers at the end of a working day and with families who enjoyed televised sports, live acts, talent competitions, DJs, karaoke, quiz nights and socialising with friends and family.

For a long time, the large function room played host to the Bothy Folksong Club.

Clive Powncenby, organiser of The Bothy Folksong Club said “We spent 38 continuous years at the Blundell, almost from the Club’s inception in 1965 right through until the end of 2003. These were gloriously happy times and pub and club became as one. Bothy = Blundell Arms and vice versa. It was our base, recognised as such and surely worthy of a blue plaque on the entrance door!”

“I’d hoped that we’d always have our home there as successive licensees and regulars valued our being part of what made the place tick but that was in the days of landlords not managers and breweries not pub companies.  In the 1960s we turned down a young Paul Simon, but we booked Barbara Dickson for £20!

The function room was also host to many a celebration as families and friends gathered most weeks to mark all kinds of special occasions including one local man, Douglas Keith Carran, who booked his 50th birthday party a year early and after sending out invitations was reminded that he was only turning 49 on his next birthday. Needless to say, the party went ahead as planned as did a second party the following year.

The last Blundell Arms community fun day was held on 2nd September 2017 in the grounds of the pub, almost 18 months after the pub closed.

The community now plan to oppose any planning applications by delivering a petition to Sefton Council. The group plan to trigger a vote by the local councillors on the planning committee and hope to get cross party support from all parties represented on the planning committee. Under the latest legislation all local pubs are now protected and The Blundell Arms has been listed by Sefton Council as an Asset of Community Value so the group hope to secure a stay of execution. If the sale does go ahead then the community group intend to make the new owner an offer for the pub.

Mr McCormack is confident that he can get a large number of signatures for the petition.

“It was a successful pub for many years. It was only during the last few years that a lack of investment led to its closure. The last tenants to run the pub were moved in with the promise of a full refurbishment when that didn’t happen the tenants left and Star Pubs closed the pub despite interest from an experienced local landlady.”

The group are urging residents of Sefton and neighbouring boroughs who want to sign the petition to get in touch by emailing their full name and address to DellPreservation@gmail.com. The group will then contact everyone when the planning application is announced and arrange for them to sign the petition in person.