Villagers hope to stop pub conversion
7:30am Sat Dec 31, 2016
Campaigners hoping to stop The Chequers Inn, Elston, being converted into a home. 221216DC2-2
Campaigners hoping to stop The Chequers Inn, Elston, being converted into a home. 221216DC2-2
Campaigners are calling on planners to stop a village pub being converted into a home.
The Chequers Inn, Elston, is believed to be at least 230 years old and is the only pub in a village of 650 people.

A planning application for change of use has been submitted to Newark and Sherwood District Council.

The pub, on Toad Lane, is due to open for the last time on New Year’s Day.

Villagers acknowledge there is little they can do to stop the closure, but want the district planning committee to refuse the application — and the Campaign For Real Ale supports them.

The publicans, Abigail Cutts and David Tizard, say it is a loss-making business they have tried to sell for 18 months.

They told the Advertiser they planned to convert the pub into a home they could live in.

A village meeting was called and a committee was formed to oversee a campaign against the change of use.

An online petition has been set up, and the campaign briefly made national television, when villager Mr Rob Smith held up a placard at the PDC World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London, saying: “Save The Chequers Elston.”

A Facebook group has more than 180 members, and the petition attracted more than 250 signatures on the day it went live.

Elston Parish Council met on Thursday to consider the planning application and voted to oppose it.

The council also agreed to try to establish the pub as an asset of community value (ACV) which, if granted by the district council, would mean a six-month ban on conversion to offer interested parties the opportunity to come up with a realistic rescue package.

Mr Charles Johnstone, spokesman for the pub committee, said taking it away would rob the village of a vital community asset, which, once gone, would never come back.

“Elston is a thriving village of 650 people and growing. A village of this size deserves a pub.

“However, it only opens on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and not during the day, and it doesn’t serve food. How can it be a viable business when it opens only 20 hours a week?

“It used to be a thriving business and we are convinced that it could be again with the right business plan.”

The village hall has a licensed bar ­— set up while The Chequers was closed previously.

'Decline in popularity of the village pub'

Abigail Cutts and David Tizard bought the freehold of the pub six years ago from Punch Taverns. It had been closed for nine months prior to that.

Abigail Cutts said the sale price was initially £595,000, now reduced to £450,000 but there were still no takers. She said the only expressions of interest were from developers who also wanted to convert the pub or knock it down and build houses.

She said the price could not be lowered further if they were to get any return on their investments.

She said neither she or her partner took a wage from the business and her partner had taken a job to help pay the bills.

“As former Advertiser Business Woman Of The Year, I know more than most the struggle independent traders such as village pub owners face,” she said.

“Social media, smoking bans, drink-driving laws, as well as cheap supermarket alcohol, have all contributed to the decline in popularity of the village pub. In our case even locating a brewery on site failed to boost profits.

“Since we rescued The Chequers Inn back in 2010 we have seen a steady decline in our takings.

“Only 20% of the villagers use the pub on a regular basis, which is why, despite being on the market for well over 18 months, it has failed to sell.

“Taking the decision to convert the pub has not been easy but we fully intend to keep the building entire so that should anyone wish to change it back into a pub in better economic times then they can.”

She said the pub offered food on Friday nights, but a lack of demand meant they were throwing food away.

She said the reduced opening hours were due to the fall in custom. They planned to retain the micro brewery allied to the pub.

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