Community "excited" as pub gets stay of execution

PUBLISHED: 10:53 31 January 2013 | UPDATED: 10:53 31 January 2013

The Axe pub on Ashdon Road has a new owner.

The Axe pub on Ashdon Road has a new owner.

Archant

CAMPAIGNERS are rejoicing this week after it was revealed a once-thriving pub has been saved from extinction.

The Axe in Ashdon Road, Saffron Walden, is to be given a new lease of life after a micro-brewery shareholder stumped up the cash to buy the establishment as a freehold from previous owner Greene King.

Local businessman Chris Stringer, who owns a share of the Indian Summer Brewing Co. Ltd on the Ashdon Road Industrial Estate, told the Reporter he was keen to hear from residents who helped save the pub about how to make it a hit with punters.

“I would definitely welcome ideas from people who live nearby and have set up a Facebook page for them to share their thoughts. It will be nice to see what people think. As far as I’m concerned I just need to get punters through the door.

“The pub has been saved and it’s now time for people who signed the petition to do what they said they would and support it. The campaigners who promised they would use The Axe if it was kept open need to step up, otherwise one day it will close.”

Last summer Greene King argued that the business was “unviable” – revealing plans to demolish it and build four three-bedroom houses in its place. But planning chiefs at Uttlesford District Council rejected the proposal on the basis it would result in the loss of an important “community asset”.

A petition, signed by 112 residents, was sent to Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, then town mayor Cllr Cliff Treadwell and Uttlesford District Council, amid accusations that Greene King had “deliberately run the pub into the ground”.

Mr Stringer, who owns a 50 per cent stake in building firm New World Timber Frame, also based on the Ashdon Road Industrial Estate, said the pub needed “a lot of work doing to it” but vowed to “make it into the successful family pub it used to be”.

He added: “I don’t own any pubs but I’m a shareholder for the Indian Summer Brewery and that is where my interest comes from. We’ve got a brewery which can feed it, although not exclusively. It will be a freehold pub so we’re able to bring beer in from wherever we choose.

“I would like to start by getting in a much better selection of four or five different beers.”

There is also a plan to serve food at the pub – but not until the kitchen is refurbished later in the year.

Mary Flint, of Mill Lane, campaigned avidly against Greene King’s proposal to demolish the pub. She said residents had lots of ideas about how to make The Axe into “a bustling community hub” and welcomed the opportunity to work with the new owner.

“It just shows how powerful the community can be when everyone works together – it makes a big difference. We are absolutely delighted to hear money is going to be spent on improving the pub and are excited by the opportunity of sharing our ideas.”

Marion Gillman, also of Mill Lane, spoke on behalf of residents at the planning meeting last year.

“People living nearby are going to be so chuffed – it is fabulous news. If the pub had closed it would have been a disaster for the community because once it’s gone you can never get it back,” she explained.

Pubs officer for the Saffron Walden CAMRA branch, Richard Williams, said: “It is great news to have this pub bought by a local person who cares about its survival as a community hub.

“In Saffron Walden we have lost far too many pubs which have been closed and changed into houses, cafes or shops.

“This will restore a run down establishment into a friendly thriving pub serving local beers in an area of town that does not have any more pubs left.”

• The handover of the pub will take place on February 28. Visit The Axe Facebook page to share your ideas on its future at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Axe/509446735766321

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