Wickham Market: Village welcomes bid to restore the fire-ravaged George Inn
13:00 25 April 2014
Owners of a burned down pub in east Suffolk have put forward plans to restore the listed building and retain its former use for the community.
Punch Taverns is currently in discussions with Suffolk Coastal District Council over the future of The George Inn, Wickham Market, which was gutted by fire more than a year ago, depriving the village of its last remaining pub.
Geoff Holdcroft, who is responsible for planning at the council, said the discussions represented a positive “step forward”.
“We cannot discuss the details of the proposal, as these are subject to pre-application confidentiality,” he said.
“But I can confirm that it meets our previously expressed requirements for the building to be retained, restored and put back into use as a public house.”
Investigations by the district council earlier this year found that parts of the building were of medieval origin. This prevented Punch Taverns from demolishing the pub to sell the site for housing, which many villagers feared was its intention.
Roger Scrimgeor, senior design and conservation officer at the council said it was of “sufficient significance and a level of repairability such that demolition will not be acceptable” and wrote to the owners calling for “the full reinstatement of the building and its former use.” Mr Scrimgeor’s findings were welcomed by Wickham Market Parish Council, as support for its own plans to see the building retained as a pub.
Councillors were considering registering The George as an “asset of community value” under the right to bid scheme, which would prevent its demolition or transfer of use.
Parish clerk Jo Jones said demolition would have been “completely objected” to by the council and has welcomed the latest news.
“The council wanted it to be retained as a pub and also felt that as a listed building it should have been fully restored so it’s really good news that Punch Taverns have come forward with some proposals,” she said. Wickham Market’s district councillor Bryan Hall has also welcomed the progress, which he hoped would soon bring an end to the months of uncertainty in the village.
“We are quite pleased that Punch Taverns has put together a proposal that has been found to be broadly acceptable,” he said.
“It’s been a long while to have the site unused.”
Mr Hall was unsure whether Punch Taverns would retain the pub once planning permission was granted or sell it on.
A spokesman for Punch Taverns said: “We are currently in discussions with the local authority about our plans.”