The Bird in Hand pub, which closed in November, has been approved as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) by Central Bedfordshire Council.
Dunstable North Community Group, set up to save the pub, on High Street North, in Dunstable, started a petition in December to keep it running as a pub, and the group were delighted with the news that the pub has been listed as an ACV.
A spokesman for the group said: “It is great news and it is a huge relief to those of us who do not want to lose our facilities to developers with only profit in mind.
“This means that if the owners, Milton Pubs - Aprirose, want to sell it they have to offer it to us as a community group to buy it and then we have a period of time to express interest to buy it and raise the money, it is around six months.
“More importantly it means that any owners will have difficulty getting a change of use for the building, and they can not demolish it, so basically it can not be knocked down and turned into flats which is good news for the community.”
Pubs that are listed as ACVs need a planning application for a change of use or demolish them for the duration of the listing.
An ACV gives the community a chance to buy the property if it comes up for sale within a certain time frame. After that, the owner may sell it to whoever and at whatever price they choose.
At the moment the pub is empty and there are squatters inside, a spokesman for the group added: “Unfortunately at the moment the pub is still closed and there are squatters in there, they have been seen moving things from the pub and they have been a nuisance for local residents.
“The police have been there and the council know they are there but because it is not a residential building, it is down to the landlord, to remove them. We are hoping to get that sorted and it reopened as a pub.”
A spokesperson for Central Bedfordshire Council said: “Squatting in a commercial building is a civil matter, and the law means that the pub’s owner will need to obtain a court order to remove the squatters.”
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: “We have been made aware of a group currently occupying the former Bird in Hand public house in High Street North, Dunstable. We are currently contacting the owners of the property in order for them to start proceedings to have the group evicted. No crimes have been reported to us, so the process of eviction is a civil one.”
Anyone interested in supporting or investing in a community pub, email firstname.lastname@example.org.