Great Cornard: Last ditch attempt to save historic pub

Campaigners behind a push to save an empty 18th Century pub believe the building’s owners are trying to get an application to convert it into a supermarket “in through the back door.”

Punch Taverns initially applied for permission to demolish the Highbury Barn in Great Cornard and replace it with a £1m superstore, but the proposal and subsequent appeal were rejected because the building was deemed a “heritage asset”.

The group trying to save the pub had it listed as an asset of community value. They also asked for the order preventing the building from being demolished to be extended to protect it from any future building work.

However the plea was rejected and now the company has applied for change of use for the pub so it can become a retail outlet. The application includes a single-storey rear extension following partial demolition and other alterations, and is due to be voted on before the end of April.

Cornard Parish Council’s planning committee has already decided not to oppose the application.

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Councillors would rather see the building used as a shop than left empty and a “possible target for vandals”.

Pam White, chairman of the planning committee, said even if the pub came on the market as a community asset, the parish council would not be able to afford to buy or run it.

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But one of the campaigners, Gavin Fance – whose grandparents once ran the Highbury Barn – is concerned about Punch Tavern’s latest application, and he is urging people to write to Babergh objecting to the proposal.

He said: “Cornard already has enough shops and we still believe there is sufficient support in the community to get the Highbury Barn reopened as a pub.

“We hoped that because Punch Taverns were told they couldn’t demolish the pub, this could be extended to protect it further but that’s not the case.

“A local businessmen offered the company £500,000 for the pub with the idea of getting us to run it, but they turned that down. They seem hell bent on turning it into a supermarket despite everything and the application looks like a way of getting the supermarket proposal in through the back door.

“Our only hope now is to get people to write in to Babergh with their objections to the applications before it’s too late.”

A spokeswoman for Punch Taverns said the company was still keen to gain permission to turn the pub into a retail unit, and confirmed an application had been submitted by a third party. She declined to comment any further at this stage.

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