Campaigners voice fears over plans for Railway Arms pub in Saffron Walden
PUBLISHED: 11:19 04 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:19 04 May 2018
Campaigners aiming to save a pub in Saffron Walden have voiced “serious and well-founded concerns” about fresh plans for the owner to undertake refurbishment.
The Railway Arms closed on January 6, 2017, and the Save The Railway Arms Pub (STRAP) campaign was formed to save the site through a community buy-out with a view to re-opening it as a community pub.
The pub, which has stood since the 1860s, has been at risk of being sold on to developers unless enough money can be raised for campaigners to purchase the property from its owners, the brewer Charles Wells.
STRAP offered shares in the pub in April 2017, raising £250,000, and tried to purchase the site, but the group confirmed to its shareholders in April that the directors of Charles Wells decided it was their “preferred route to undertake the investment in the pub and then to recruit a partner to run the business on a tenanted agreement”.
Dave Kenny, chairman of STRAP and Saffron Walden Community Pub Ltd (SWCP), said: “We were assured that their plans would be shared with us in a spirit of openness and potential co-operation yet we were not advised of the terms of the tenancy or lease, or even that adverts had been placed in late March.
“The board of the Saffron Walden Community Pub Ltd (SWCP) feel very strongly about the way our community and our pub have been dealt with over the last 15 months, and we have serious and well-founded concerns about the details of the refurbishment and terms of the tenancy or lease.”
The group says the refurbishment is dependent upon gaining planning permission from Uttlesford District Council which is something it views as “very unlikely” as the pub is registered as an Asset of Community Value and is proposed to be listed as a local heritage site.
Member of the campaign group, Steve Langford said: “We feel that Charles Wells are trying to go down the ‘gastro pub’ route which was not a success with the last tenant and does not match the requirements of the community who simply want a community-based non-tied pub.
“They are also re-opening the pub on the basis that they feel it has local community support, such as STRAP, however we feel unlikely that our members will be happy with their proposals – we will be surveying our members over the next few weeks ahead of a meeting at the town hall on May 17 to gain their thoughts.
“Charles Wells have repeatedly treated both STRAP and the local community with disdain. They have not fed back their plans to us as they promised and took more than six months to reject our offer to purchase the pub.”
Charles Wells was contacted for comment but failed to respond.