Villagers mount battle to save pub from being turned into a home – 10 years after it closed

The Queen's Head at Erwarton back in 2004 Picture: OWEN HINES

The Queen's Head at Erwarton back in 2004 Picture: OWEN HINES

Plans to turn a closed village pub into a private dwelling have met with a storm of protest.

The village of Erwarton has just 120 or so residents Picture: MIKE PAIGE

The village of Erwarton has just 120 or so residents Picture: MIKE PAIGE - Credit: Archant

The Queen's Head at Erwarton on the Shotley peninsula was taken on by Marek and Claire Niewiarowski but has been closed for 10 years.

They argue through a report from commercial property consultancy Tom Nichols of Everard Cole that the village of just 126 residents is not enough to sustain the pub or other enterprise, and that it is therefore not viable.

Local farmer William Wrinch, a former regular, said he had recently gathered signatures to have the pub nominated as an asset of community value - but was turned down on the grounds that the outer time limit had expired.

The owners had initially said they were going to reopen as a Victorian tavern, with an art gallery and a café, but this had never come to pass, he said.

Queens Head owners Claire and Marek Niewiarowski after they took it on Picture: DAVE VINCENT

Queens Head owners Claire and Marek Niewiarowski after they took it on Picture: DAVE VINCENT - Credit: Archant

But the pub had been an institution in the village for a few hundred years, and apart from its historic church, was its only remaining asset.

"My theory is that they believe that they are going to be successful in their bid by way of public apathy and I am horribly afraid that they may be correct," he said.

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Peter Milligan, of London, said he had been a patron of the pub for 40 years up until its closure, and was "gravely disappointed" no effort had been made to reopen it in the last year.

"I visited it from the sea whilst anchored at Erwarton Ness and by car when in the area, or by foot when staying with friends nearby. It was a great community pub and to be frank outshone its neighbouring competitors. Beer was kept well and the food offering was excellent," he said.

Farmer William Wrinch, who is against plans to turn the pub into a home Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Farmer William Wrinch, who is against plans to turn the pub into a home Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

"It has been a great disappointment that I have been unable to walk down for refreshment after visiting my wife's grave at Erwarton Church. That walk was one that we enjoyed together on many occasions throughout our married life. I live in hope that the Queen's Head will be restored as the pub that enjoyed great success."

In papers submitted to Babergh District Council, Mr Nichols points out the Grade II listed building, some of which dates back to the 17th century, is in a "very rural location" with a lack of passing traffic and in a poor state of repair, with about £100k worth of work needed to bring it up to standard.

"It is noteworthy that previous owners of the property, James Buckle - an experienced operator of the Bildeston Crown and Lindsey Rose - tried without success to run the property as a destination restaurant," he said.

"A further major issue is that the pub has been closed since 2009 so it is highly likely all former customers will have found alternative hostelries to frequent of which there are several in the immediate vicinity."

Farmer James Buckle when he owned the pub back in 2007 Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Farmer James Buckle when he owned the pub back in 2007 Picture: ANDY ABBOTT