The Black Horse pub and Grand Union Canal, pre-1920
The Black Horse pub and Grand Union Canal, pre-1920

How Our Campaign Began

The Black Horse is a unique and successful pub in the heart of Greenford by the Grand Union Canal. The pub dates back as far as 1726, and it represents a popular and busy place for people from across the local community and further afield to come together.

However, rumours have been going around about what plans the pub’s owners, Fuller’s, may have for its future. I wrote to Fuller’s in June 2021 to raise my concerns, and I was worried by their response. They did not rule out selling the pub, and they implied they might consider doing so.

I therefore decided to show Fuller’s how strong the support of the community is for the Black Horse by setting up a petition to protect the Black Horse. This petition received well over a thousand signatures in a week, and the majority were from our local community in Ealing North.

Left to right: James, Sarita, Brian, Aysha, Mel, and Sindy
Left to right: James, Sarita, Brian, Aysha, Mel, and Sindy

Launching the ‘Protect the Black Horse’ Group

Lots of local people who signed the petition wanted to get more involved with protecting the Black Horse. I called a public meeting in March 2022 to formally create a new ‘Protect the Black Horse’ group.

I was very glad that over 80 people came to this public meeting to agree the constitution, hold our first annual general meeting, and appoint our management committee. This public meeting established ‘Protect the Black Horse’ as a constituted, non-for-profit community group set up to support efforts to protect the Black Horse pub.

The first task for me and other members of the management committee was to prepare an application to Ealing Council to try and get the Black Horse listed as an ‘asset of community value’.

Protect the Black Horse Group meeting, March 2022
Protect the Black Horse Group meeting, March 2022

Asset of Community Value Application

I began working with other members of the new ‘Protect the Black Horse’ committee to write an asset of community value application to be submitted to Ealing Council. Being an asset of community value gives pubs protection against simply being sold off and turned into flats.

We took advice from CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale – about how to make the application as strong as possible. We submitted the application to the Council, and they went through the process of formally assessing it.

I was very glad that, in August 2022, the Council confirmed the application had been approved. This was very good news as it meant the Black Horse would now be added to the Council’s list of assets of community values for the next five years.

Being an asset of community value does not provide absolute protection for pubs. But it does mean that if Fuller’s tried to sell the Black Horse, we can block them for six months. This would give us time to try to put together a community bid to buy the pub instead.

Being an asset of community value also helps to keep the Black Horse as a pub whoever owns it. This is because being listed as an asset of community value would make it harder for anyone to get planning permission to change it from a pub into flats.

You can learn more about what an Asset of Community Value is by going to the Ealing Council or Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) websites.

I want to thank other members of the ‘Protect the Black Horse’ committee for their help putting the application together. I also want to thank so many members of the local community for your support of our ongoing campaign to protect the Black Horse for the future.

Debate on the Black Horse in the House of Commons

In December 2022, I was very glad to be given the opportunity to lead an ‘adjournment debate’ in the chamber of the House of Commons on our campaign to protect the Black Horse, and on the wider issues around asset of community value legislation.

In Parliament, MPs can use ‘adjournment debates’ to speak about any local or national issues they want to, and a Government Minister is present to respond. This was my first adjournment debate as an MP, and I chose to use it to tell the House of Commons about our successful campaign to get the Black Horse listed as an asset of community value.

I was able to use our experience with getting the Black Horse listed to highlight some of the difficulties that others may face in making similar applications. Our experience has also made us aware of the limits to the protection offered by being an asset of community value, so I urged the Government Minster to give people in Greenford and across the country greater control over what happens to pubs and other important places in our local communities.

I was very glad that my fellow members of the ‘Protect the Black Horse’ committee – Sarita, Brian, Sindy, Mel, and James – were able to be in public gallery of the House of Commons to hear the debate. In his reply, the Minister asked to put on record his thanks to them and everybody who has worked hard to ensure that the Black Horse can be put on the register as an asset of community value.

During the debate, the Minister committed that he would look further into some of the issues I raised, and so I will keep following this up with him and his colleagues. You can read the full debate by clicking here, or by watching the video below.

James Murray MP with the Protect the Black Horse Committee in Parliament
James Murray MP with the Protect the Black Horse Committee in Parliament

Bad news in 2023

Like so many people in the local area, I was shocked to hear that Fuller’s abruptly closed the Black Horse early in January 2023. This is certainly not the way I hoped we would be starting the New Year, especially having had such a good time in the Black Horse in the run up to Christmas.

I got in touch with Fuller’s straightaway and I spoke with a senior director there today. I started by telling him how saddened and disappointed we all are that the pub had been shut. I said it has come as an even greater shock that the pub was closed without warning or explanation.

In my conversation with the Fuller’s director, I stressed the fact that, even though Fuller’s want to sell the Black Horse, the building has some protection for use as a pub. It has protection as a pub through planning policies, and through the recent ‘asset of community value’ listing that members of the local community and I secured last year.

The director said they would be marketing the building for sale as a pub in the coming months. Of course, we do not know how all this will play out, so I and other members of the ‘Protect the Black Horse’ group decided to begin by immediately contacting other pub chains and community pub organisations to see who may be interested in buying the Black Horse. We are also getting in touch with CAMRA and Ealing Council who helped us secure the asset of community value listing.

I believe we should do all we can to help identify another suitable and willing pub landlord and push Fuller’s to sell to them. I will keep working with the local community to do all I can to push for the Black Horse to be sold to a willing owner and reopen.

James Murray, MP for Ealing North
James Murray, MP for Ealing North

Resources

I have included links below to the relevant resources for this campaign, including a copy of our application to Ealing Council and a copy of the constitution for ‘Protect the Black Horse’.

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