Future of Wickham Market's only pub still uncertain as owner fails to attend public meeting
PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 April 2016
Fresh calls for answers as to the future of a medieval Suffolk pub have been issued after more than 200 people turned out to a public meeting on the matter last week.
It has now been three years since The George, in Wickham Market, was almost destroyed by fire, and 18 months since new owners, Montague Investments, bought the pub at auction.
Suffolk Coastal District Council placed a protection order on the building after an investigation found that some parts were at least 200 years older than initially thought.
However, the lack of movement by the new owners to restore the building has prompted concerns that it is being left to become so derelict that it would be rendered “unsaveable” and demolished to be turned into housing, leaving the village permanently without a pub.
In an effort to find out more and to drive the matter forward, a public meeting was called by Wickham Market Parish Council inviting owner Robert Leckie, on behalf of Montague Investments, to talk of the plans for the future of the building. However, chairman of the parish council, Dick Jenkinson, said: “Robert Leckie did not even acknowledge his invitation and the consultants which have been employed by Montague Investments Ltd were instructed not to attend.”
At the meeting, resident Bryan Archer said: “I have lived in Wickham Market since 1975, and until the fire The George was my local.
“There is a widespread fear in the village that the current owner is waiting for it to fall down in the hope that SCDC will then give planning permission for the site to be redeveloped for residential purposes, or to provide access to an estate on the Glebe allotments.
“I do not think it unreasonable to ask [Montague Investments] to restore the last pub in the village.”
A spokesman for SCDC said: “It was agreed that SCDC would contact the owners of The George outlining the strong feelings expressed at the meeting. We are looking for planning and listed building applications to be submitted as soon as possible, and if they were not forthcoming will look to progress towards serving a Building Repairs Notice. However, serving a Buildings Repair Notice would take some time, and appropriate funding, due to the necessary preparation work such as surveys.”
Montague Investments could not be reached for comment.