Crown and Sceptre Pub to be Flattened by University

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The University of Southampton is to flatten two pubs in the Basset area despite efforts by the local community to preserve at least one of them.  The pubs are to be demolished on the first of June to make way for car parking spaces in the universities expansion plan, unless the city council intervenes.

The pubs –  The Crown and Sceptre and The Gate, both on Basset Road – have been closed the last couple of years as part of a nationwide trend of local pubs being undercut by chains and supermarket pricing, and have been acquired by the university in order to make space for car parking.   Part of The Gate is a listed building with history into the 18th century, whilst The Crown and Sceptre was built in 1931 in mock Tudor style on the site of an old drinking area.  The pubs have been part of the community for generations, and many residents have been upset to see them closed for so long and now threatened with demolition.  Basset Road has also seen slow degradation over the years, which residents point out won’t be helped by their replacement with a few more parking spaces.

Although campaigners have accepted the loss of The Gate as inevitable, the proposed demolition of The Crown and Sceptre has struck a chord, as it would only create a few parking spaces and many deem it unnecessary to demolish it.  Instead, local campaigners are seeking support from the council and university to keep it open for the local community, with the university as the landlords.  If it can’t be kept open as a pub, it has also been suggested the building could easily be converted and kept either for community use or used as affordable housing.

However, time is running out, with demolition due to occur on the 1st June.  The campaigners are hoping for the council to step in and stop this so that negotiations can take place on the pub’s future.  To this end, they’re asking people to sign a petition against the demolition, join the facebook group supporting them and directly object to the council – ways for anyone to take object can be found at the end of the article here.

One petitioner sums up the local residents’ feelings:

The Crown and Sceptre pub has been a part of both the local community and university community for as long as we can all remember. It’s an important landmark. It needs to stay. It’s worth keeping and is important for everyone. I am feel(sic) confident that the University can find somewhere else so(sic) expand.

– This article is an Extract from original article published on The Dolphin’s Blowhole http://thedolphinsblowhole.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/local-pub-to-be-flattened-by-university-despite-community-objections/ –

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Discussion12 Comments

  1. avatar

    Just to ensure this is balanced, here is a comment from the university press office on the matter.

    “The University purchased the premises of the former public house known as The Crown & Sceptre, when the site became available for sale last year. The pub had been closed for over a year before the University purchased the site.

    Closure of pubs is a nationwide trend reflecting changing social habits.

    There are several other public houses in the area which are open for all members of the community to use. These include the Crown Inn (Highcrown Street), Drummond Arms (Somerset Road), The Highfield (Highfield Lane), and the Stile (Burgess Road). Less than a minute’s walk from the Crown & Sceptre is Swaythling Neighbourhood Centre, which is a hub for the Swaythling communities, including the Flower Roads and Hampton Park areas.

    The University is planning to demolish the building on the former Crown & Sceptre site. Our plan to introduce landscaping on the site has the potential to provide a more open and visually attractive eastern approach to the University’s Highfield campus.”

    Dominic Falquero – News Editor

    Rachael Avery
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    Who of these commenters have been on the website set up by the community itself? After reading what they have to say, I’m pretty sure that they DO care about the pub. It was a community space for them, and they’d like to see it returned to them. Unfortunately the Bassett community weren’t given any choice in the matter.

    The thing is, even when pubs have a huge turnout every night they still have problems with profit margins because of chains (eg. Varsity), clubs and supermarkets offering cheap deals- but also so many pubs are now owned by breweries, who take some of the profits and restrict the selling of other brands.

    If you’re interested in how a pub can be successfully run as a co-operative, go to

    http://www.cooperatives-uk.coop/live/images/cme_resources/Public/Publications/Calling-Time.pdf .
    If you’d like to sign the online petition to keep the pubs, go to

    http://www.uk11.net/crown/about

  2. avatar

    “Our plan to introduce landscaping on the site has the potential to provide a more open and visually attractive eastern approach to the University’s Highfield campus”

    I think this deserves special credit because only someone with years of experience in PR could use these words to describe a car park.

    Chris- I absolutely disagree with you. Local pubs are cornerstones of communities, the University should recognise that and protect it. As far as I’m concerned, the pub belongs to the local people. Maybe when the economy picks up, someone can come in and open it up again. If it gets knocked down not only is that going to create years of bad feeling from them towards us, its downright irresponsible in days like this when community pubs are being taken over by wetherspoons and yates’s. Protecting a struggling business and a community should be exactly the kind of thing a university should do. Knocking it down to build a car park is more along the lines of someone like WalMart, but unfortunately not out of step with our institutions attitude.

    Chris Houghton
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    I had a feeling you’d disagree…

    The Crown and Sceptre has been closed down for a couple of years, because it couldn’t make ends meet. If it was a cornerstone of the community, it certainly isn’t any more – it’s been closed for two years. I understand it is very important to preserve parts of the local community, but when it comes down to it – someone has to foot the bill. Good intentions and community spirit cannot keep a business running. If the community care so much about the pub, why not choose to own and run it together? Many local village pubs are now owned by the local residents, and running successfully as a result.

    On another note, (this is more of a question than an argument) do you not think that a reason that local pubs could be struggling is because local communities are changing? Many people say that local communities are dying – I disagree. I feel that the world is simply ‘getting smaller’ – instead of walking 100m down the road to a pub, they are hopping in the car and driving half a mile down the road. Community is very much still alive, just less so in the immediate local sense.

    David McKay
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    “If the community care so much about the pub, why not choose to own and run it together? Many local village pubs are now owned by the local residents, and running successfully as a result.” – That’s one of the things that the local campaigners are proposing and campaigning for, but the current owners (the university) aren’t up for talking to them about that or any possible alternative, and the previous owners (a pubco chain) sold it straight to the uni.

    “instead of walking 100m down the road to a pub, they are hopping in the car and driving half a mile down the road” – pretty much all pubs are suffering losses, it’s just that independent pubs don’t have the efficiencies that the chains do to survive. If the smaller world thing was the case, then only some pubs would be suffering, not the vast majority. It seems more likely that pubs are being undercut by supermarket pricing and low drink prices in chains like spoonies. Our own Stag’s Head and The Cube is having the same problem of steadily falling turnover, and I don’t think that’s because we’re just hopping in the car – it’s a question of economics and tight budgets rather than communities not fancying their local anymore.

    Peter Apps
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    The fact that it’s been closed for two years reflects the rising cost of alcohol and property at the same time time as customers drift away towards night clubs, weatherspoons and cut price supermarket booze. Costs spiral, profits drop and they don’t have a choice. If the pub wasn’t important to the community, they wouldn’t have kicked up a fuss about the Uni demolishing it. Like David says, community ownership is something they have proposed, but whether or not they could afford it is another question. Personally I’m disappointed to see any pub close down (I love pubs), but the fact that the Uni wants to knock it down for six car parking spaces is just insulting. Without much difficulty you can come with other ways to use a nice, historic building.
    Your question is interesting and probably a bit too complicated to take on properly without writing an essay. In short, I’d agree that local communities are being replaced by something new; but its something empty, homogenous and consumerist that quite often leaves people feeling alienated and lost, and has disastorous implications for our society and our planet.

  3. avatar

    Car parking spaces? Surely it’d be far more effective, and in keeping with the university’s green credentials, to keep the historic buildings and convert them into accommodation. We all know there is a shortage, and these sites could ease some of the pressure.

    Chris Houghton
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    Make no mistake – the University’s decision for this has nothing to do with being green. They want more car parking spaces because more people want to park near uni – simple as that.

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