Pub owner drops price for community sale - but is the funding available?
- Credit: Archant
Villagers’ hopes to save their pub have been “revitalised” after its owner agreed to reduce the price.
Campaigners who rallied to buy the Marquis Cornwallis in Chedburgh said the lower £350,000 price was an "appropriate starting point for negotiations".
The Chedburgh Marquis Community Hub, (CMCH) which formed to buy the pub had been in dispute with its owner, Steven White, over the sale, but welcomed the compromise on price.
Mr White, who bought the pub through his company Kenya Trading Ltd, shortly before it closed in 2016, had rejected the group's previous offer of £300,000, saying it did not represent "market value".
He instead sought permission to convert the pub into housing - but the applications were rejected.
Meanwhile, he continued trying to sell part of the site, including via Ebay where it was listed with a £475,000 price tag or an exchange for property or a motor yacht.
Land Registry documents show the 1.5acre site next to the pub was transferred to a company called Durian Property Ltd and then sold to a David Eric Shipp.
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Mr White was also pursuing property deals in Kenya. In June, he appeared at a Nairobi court, accused of assaulting his fiancée, in what Kenyan TV described as a "business deal gone wrong".
After the case was dropped, Mr White reopened negotiations with the campaigners in Suffolk.
A spokesman said: "CMCH are pleased that Kenya Trading Ltd has revitalised negotiations between the parties."
However the group rejected Mr White's offer of a £150,000 private mortgage, due to its high risk.
Mr White said he had dropped the price to facilitate the group - and called on it to prove the funding was available. "This will be the third time over the nearly two years that they have been asked to prove funding and so far they have declined," he said.
Mr White's estate agent, Robert Lewis, also questioned the group's means. "While I believe that the campaign group have genuine intentions, we must face the facts that as we are now approaching nearly two year since they started the process, they do not appear to have the funding for such a project," he said.
Although CMCH missed a £100,000 fundraising target, it has continued exploring options and recently received a grant.
The group said there was "no obligation" to prove its funding at this stage.