The future of an historic Kings Norton pub has once again been plunged into uncertainty as the current owner confirms that the sale of the 19th century building has been agreed.
The Navigation Inn owners Greene King have today confirmed that the pub, at the bottom of Wharf Road opposite The Green, has been sold.
A Greene King spokesperson said: “As a leading pub operator and brewer, we are committed to running high quality community pubs. To be able to continue to invest in our estate, from time to time we have to make difficult decisions and therefore after much consideration we decided to put The Navigation Inn on the market some time ago.”
The pub has been for sale online for some months, with an asking price of £600,000.
‘The pub will likely close’
The spokesperson confirmed that the Flaming Grill pub was set to close, but would not confirm a date. They said: “A sale has been agreed and the pub will likely close in the near future.”
However, B31 Voices understands that the pub, as it is now, will be closed by the end of February.
Agents selling the pub online described its: “considerable scope for local and regional public house operators and restaurateurs to further develop both wet and dry sales, building upon the local trade.”
However, they also identified the site’s value for alternative uses, stating: “The property has potential for a range of other uses, subject to the granting of the relevant permissions, and is likely to be of considerable interest to local and regional investors, developers, care home operators and builders.”
Although Greene King were not able to give any details on the buyer, it is unclear if the pub will reopen as a public house or if the buyer will attempt to obtain planning approval for an alternative use.
However, the company have confirmed that staff are being moved to other pubs where possible, saying: “Our team at the pub are aware of the situation and we are working with them to try to find them positions at other Greene King pubs in the area.”
It is unclear whether all staff will be provided with new positions within the company.
A number of attempts have been made to change the use of the site over the last few years, involving the demolition of the existing building.
In 2011, then owners The Spirit Pub Company planned to sell the pub to the Co-op. Plans for a grocery store were met with much objection from local residents, politicians and businesses. The campaign against the proposal was successful, with city planners rejecting the application.
Plans were resubmitted again TWICE in 2012, but again campaigners opposed and Birmingham City Council rejected both applications, saying that the pub should not be demolished as it was a heritage asset and used for social and community activities. Planners also felt a modern building on the site would not fit with the character of the Kings Norton Conservation Area.
In 2014, The Spirit Pub Company and Sainsbury’s submitted a new planning proposal to demolish the pub and build a modern grocery store. Again, the proposals were rejected by the council.
The companies persisted and took an appeal to the government’s Planning Inspectorate. In 2015, they received the news that the government’s inspector had turned down their appeal, citing safety concerns and the adverse affect on the Kings Norton Conservation Area.
MP stresses ‘importance of openness’
MP for the area Richard Burden (Labour, Birmingham Northfield) was keen to stress to both the buyer and the seller the importance of openness with the local community about plans for the Navigation.
Mr Burden said: “I have also been in touch with Greene King but, like B31 Voices, I still haven’t heard from them who has bought the Navigation Inn.
“Given the history of planning applications for the site, Greene King cannot be in any doubt about how strongly the local community feels about the future of the Navigation Inn.”
He added: “Hopefully they will have told their purchasers about the extent of that local interest and that the sooner they are open about what they have in mind for the site the better. It will do nobody any good if local people feel that information is being kept from them until the last minute. I am therefore writing again to Greene King to emphasise the importance of openness on the part of the purchasers of “the Navi” and themselves”
As this is a private sale from one business to another, there is nothing for campaigners to campaign against.
It will be interesting to see what use is proposed for the building or whether the purchaser will attempt to apply for a demolition and change of use for the site.
What would you like to see happen?