CAMPAIGNERS believe one of Britain’s biggest pub-owning companies may have broken the law when it sold one of its York pubs to a housing developer.

Enterprise Inns sold The Jubilee in Balfour Street to Wakefield-based property developer Tri-Core Developments in August, even though it had been listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) in July.

There is meant to be a six-month moratorium on the sale of any ACV, to give locals the chance to raise the required money.

Enterprise says it was within its rights to sell, because although the sale did not complete until August 31, it had been agreed on April 7, three months before the pub was granted ACV status. City of York Council said its legal advice was the same, and says it approved the ACV status in July knowing that the six-month moratorium would not apply.

However The Friends of The Jubilee, a local group set up to try to save the pub, says it has had different advice. It also believes that, even if Enterprise acted legally, locals were not given a fair chance.

The plans to turn the pub into housing were made public only in May, when planning application documents were published on the council's website.

York Press:

Nick Love, above, spokesman for the Friends group, said: “We are considering how Enterprise have acted regarding the sale of The Jubilee.

"The law is grey on this issue as although they exchanged contracts before the ACV was granted they didn’t complete the sale until afterwards which could be a key legal consideration.

“We are therefore taking legal advice on the wording of an absolutely critical section of the 2011 Localism Act regarding “disposal” of property - to double check they did not contravene the law as we are not prepared to take their interpretation as definitive.

“At the very least it shows that Enterprise have, by selling on the pub, made a mockery of a law that was designed to stop pubs being treated as financial pawns and more as community assets – whether that is indeed their fault or the Government who drafted the law.”

The Localism Act 2011 introduced ACV status, to give communities the right to bid for facilities they value.

In a further twist, Tri-Core Developments put the pub on the market the very day it acquired it. That sale is covered by the ACV listing, meaning locals have until January to mount a bid.

York Press:

Mr Love said a meeting was planned locally to ascertain whether there was interest in a community cooperative bid, to take the pub into collective community ownership and he said many local people were unhappy about how Enterprise had acted.

Dominic Woodward, of Tri-Core, said: “We are still wanting to develop it but it’s causing us problems that it has the ACV tag.

"So basically, if it can be sold as a pub for the right money it will continue as a pub. If it doesn’t, we will go back to the council and they will have a decision to make, whether to have it empty. We hope to sell it as a pub or convert it to housing.”

A City of York Council spokeswoman said: “Contracts of sale were exchanged between the two companies before July 11, when the Jubilee was confirmed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

"Our legal advice was to list the pub as an ACV but, because the exchange of contracts was legally binding, the moratorium would not apply in this instance.”

Enterprise Inns has said: “As we had already exchanged contracts for the sale of the Jubilee before the ACV listing was granted there was no obligation to halt the sale and remarket the property.

"We can confirm that we have now completed the sale and the pub’s future now lies with the purchaser.”