August 2 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, April 3, 2014
A village in east Suffolk is to launch a legal challenge preventing its only pub from being converted into housing.
Friston Parish Council has prepared plans to register the Old Chequers Inn as a “community asset” in response to growing fears that its owner intends to sell the building for residential development.
Frances Cardy, the council’s acting chairman, speaking at the Annual Parish Meeting on Monday, said: “There’s a possibility that the owner could apply for a change of use and say it’s no longer viable – if we had it listed as a community asset we could delay this and buy us time.”
Villagers at the meeting welcomed the move, having suffered for nearly a year without their village pub.
Liz Thomas, who helped organise two well attended “pop-up pub” events at the village hall since the closure of The Old Chequers Inn said it would be a “tragedy” if it was lost for good.
“It would be nice to know what’s going on with the pub as it’s of such an interest to all of us,” she said.
Rumours told at the meeting about offers made by prospective new tenants and buyers gave further cause for hope to the villagers.
Councillor Ann Patterson, having spoken with the letting agent, said that “someone was definitely interested” although they could not confirm who. And councillor Alan Simpson said it could be up and running “by the end of the year”.
A prospective buyer, with “sentimental as well as commercial” interest in the village has since confirmed with the EADT his interest in purchasing the pub. The investor, who did not wish to be named, said he and a business partner would like to make The Old Chequers Inn a “hub” for the village.
However, at the meeting concerns were raised the pub may be sold for residential development.
“There are people who would like to take the pub on but they are not able to – they are being blocked by the owner,” Mr Simpson added.
Philip Dunnett, Friston’s district councillor, said: “I think it’s very important that we get it back.
“It needs to remain as a pub as it should be.”
Friston’s residents say they are confident the pub can be a success and capitalise on its proximity to the tourist destinations of Aldeburgh and Thorpeness.
“The pub was a thriving business and can be again,” said Mr Simpson.
The pub’s owner was unavailable for comment.