A cherished 19th century pub in Reading has been listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) after more than 600 people signed a petition calling for the pub to be protected.

The Hop Leaf, on Southampton Street, has been granted the protection by Reading Borough Council (RBC), which gives it protections against development.

ACV status can provide a means for planners to refuse consent for redevelopment and also means that the pub cannot be sold for alternative uses without the knowledge of the local community.

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The building must be used to further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.

Additionally, if the owner of The Hop Leaf wants to sell the property, they must contact the council, who will notify the community group that nominated the asset.

The community group then has the opportunity to register its interest as a potential bidder, triggering a six-month moratorium period during which, subject to certain exceptions, the owner can only sell the asset if it is to a community interest group.

After the six-month moratorium period, the owner can sell to whomever they choose.

Community group ‘Friends of the Hop Leaf’ was set up with the aim of obtaining ACV status for The Hop Leaf building, which has been home to beer since the 19th century, starting as a ‘beerhouse’.

In a petition set up in July and signed by 664 people, Friends of the Hop Leaf said: “With local community pubs constantly having the ‘axe’ hanging over them and under even more threat with the ongoing pandemic, a ‘Friends of The Hop Leaf’ group has been set up with a view to obtaining ‘Asset of Community Value’ (ACV) status for the Hop Leaf.

“The Hop Leaf is the only ‘Real Ale’ pub left in our area, a regular on the Reading ale trail attracting many people from other areas as well as the ‘locals’

“For many, our pub is in central to their lives. A place for general socialising, being part of one of the teams linked to the pub, or members of other groups who use the Hop Leaf as a meeting place.

“The Hop Leaf is the only pub left in the area that can be classed as a real local community pub.

“Never any trouble, friendly and a real mixture of young and old. A meeting place that is so important for people’s mental and social wellbeing.

“Many other local pubs have closed over the years, so this makes protecting the Hop Leaf even more important to the community.

“Having a pub like the Hop Leaf is vital to the local area, adding to its atmosphere, community spirit and sense of belonging to something.”

Another pub on the same road faces potentially being shut down due to a series of violent incidents involving bottles, knives and attempted GBH, as well as “open drug use”.

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Police have asked the council to review The Pheasant’s licence and have recommended RBC seriously considering revoking it.