Row over village pub closure

By Ted JeoryTHE angry owner of a rural pub that has been forced to close because of a lack of trade has blamed the move on villagers failing to support her business.

By Ted Jeory

THE angry owner of a rural pub that has been forced to close because of a lack of trade has blamed the move on villagers failing to support her business.

Debbie Kettle, who owns the Star pub in Good Easter, near Chelmsford, added her family could be "forced out on to the streets" if their application to convert the pub into a home was refused later this month.

Mrs Kettle and her husband Paul bought the pub, which had been closed for about five years, for £400,000 in September 2003.


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They invested £180,000 in a refurbishment, employed a chef and won the backing of villagers who had been campaigning for it to be reopened.

The pub opened in March last year and, after an initial honeymoon period, trade tricked to an average of eight regulars a day - and most of these were from outside the village.

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The Kettles, who gave up their City jobs to move to the countryside, were forced cut their losses and close the pub last month, since when they have applied to Chelmsford Borough Council to change the use of the premises.

But council officers have recommended their application should be refused when the planning committee meets on April 26.

Mrs Kettle said her dream had been shattered. "If they refuse us, we'll be forced to sell. I'm so angry about what's happened," she added.

"We feel absolutely betrayed. The people who said they would back us - they say they want a pub, but then they never came in. We feel they're just interested in having an amenity to keep up their house prices.

"We pulled out all the stops to make this place work and they accuse of us being property developers - we're not, we just want to make a living.

"But the numbers don't add up. It's a 1950s building and it looks like an eyesore. It's not your old-fashioned timber-beamed pub that people will make a special effort to travel too - it needs a base of locals to keep it going and we don't have that."

Alan Hill, chairman of Good Easter Parish Council, who admitted to being an "irregular" at the pub, said: "It's a great asset to the village. It just needs doing up and marketing in the right way, rather than as a wine bar that no-one clearly wants

"Having just got the pub back after a five-year absence, villagers are more than a trifle upset by what's happened."

An unsuccessful appeal to convert the pub into a home was refused by a planning inspector in 2000, who said: "I recognise that Good Easter is a small village and on its own is probably incapable of providing sufficient income. However, being within a very attractive Essex village, the premises has the potential to trade on its location."

Recommending councillors refuse the Kettles' application, council planning officers said the planning inspectors' observations still held and warned that "once lost, the pub is unlikely to return".

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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