Campaigners are determined to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy their local pub if a developer succeeds at its second attempt in getting consent to convert the site in to a 64-bed care home.
The Centurion Community Action Group was ‘delighted’ when The Centurion pub in Oldfield Drive, Vicars Cross, was saved earlier this year after the first set of plans was refused by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).
Now developers LNT Group have resubmitted plans to build the care home after demolishing the pub with claims The Centurion is ‘economically unviable’.
The action group understands pub group Admiral Taverns has agreed to sell the building to the developers subject to planning consent but campaigners previously succeeded in getting The Centurion listed by CWaC as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), giving the community the opportunity to buy the pub if it goes up for sale.
Vice chair Bob Hindhaugh, who says the community could run the pub themselves, said: “We have been very very active since the last application. We are not just going to lie down on this one.”
Mr Hindhaugh says The Centurion is a traditional pub which he understands is profitable. Many of its clientele are over 65s and the business serves a social function. The nearest alternatives at The Piper and The Bridge Inn are too far away for some of the customers to walk.
A questionnaire has gone out to 2,500 residents asking if they would back the community pub idea. And a ‘big fund-raiser’ takes place in the pub on Friday December 11, 8pm- til late, with 30 raffle prizes donated by local businesses.
On December 16 the community has laid on a free buffet and bingo for pensioners from 4pm followed by a public meeting in the pub at 8pm concerning the hostelry future to which Chester MP Chris Matheson has been invited along with local councillors and a representative from Admiral Taverns.
Mr Hindhaugh, whose group has received support from The Plunkett Foundation which promotes and supports social enterprises, hopes Admiral will sit down and talk. One option is a smaller pub on the site alongside another profit-making venture.
“If they are prepared to talk to us there could be light at the end of the tunnel for everybody,” added the vice chair, but rubbished Admiral’s description of itself as a ‘community pub group’ saying this was ‘so far from the truth’. Mr Hindhaugh has looked at the latest plans and believes the changes are only ‘minor’ so doubts the application will succeed.
Among the reasons given for refusal last time was that the proposed development would be ‘to the detriment of the cultural, social and economic health of the community to which this facility serves’. And it had ‘not been sufficiently demonstrated that the public house is financially unviable’.
Planned care home would be 'sustainably located'
Documents accompanying the latest planning application argue the site is suitable for a care home being ‘sustainably located at the edge of a local centre within an established residential area, with good accessibility to local amenities, service and public transport’.
A ‘significant short-fall’ in the quantity and quality of care bed spaces has been identified locally.
And the document stresses: “The continued use of the building as a public house has become economically unviable, hence the site’s sale by the owners. The building is dated and is not particularly suitable for conversion to an alternative use in its current form.”
The developers conclude the scheme would ‘positively enhance the character and appearance of the area whilst also offering an important local community service and employment’.
The Chronicle has asked Admiral Taverns for a comment.
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