Planners face “save our local” plea from Holt pub regulars today

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 January 2013

The Railway Tavern, Holt. 

The Railway Tavern, Holt. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2012

A rallying call to “save our local” is being made as controversial plans to convert a town centre pub go before planners today.

Traders and dozens other residents are objecting to plans to shut the historic Railway Tavern at Holt and turn it into shopping and housing.

The move has sparked debate over the potential loss of a traditional “local” community pub in a town well-served with gastro inns and other eateries.

Developers claim trade has slumped to an unsustainable level at the pub - and that bids to sell it as an inn had failed to find a buyer.

The chamber of trade however disagrees and says the site is more suitable for a hotel than housing.

Planning officials are siding with the developers and recommending approval of the scheme by North Norfolk District Council’s development committee today.

But town councillor Jono Read is calling on the committee to refuse the conversion saying: “The Railway Tavern is situated on a thriving high street which attracts thousands of tourists every year. I don’t agree with the developer that it isn’t viable - there is bags of potential there.

“Many residents I’ve spoken to are angry that a pubco has allowed the Tavern to suffer, and that as a result it is at Threat of disappearing off our high street for good.

“I hope residents will continue to speak out against these plans, and that the district council will choose to reject the proposals.”

In the past regular Les Davies has said: “There is nowhere else in Holt you can come to and chat, play cards and darts. It’s the last traditional pub in Holt and I just think the plans are outrageous.”

Capricorn Estates want to convert it into a ground floor shop with flats above, change a barn to two homes, and build two more in the yard.

The town council is objecting to the scheme, concerned about losing a traditional public house which serves the local community. It also says the pub is currently profitable and that the housing was overdevelopment which would worsen the town’s existing parking problems.

Fifty four letters of objection have been sent to planners, including six duplicates from the ladies darts team.

Concerns include the disappearance of the town’s last non-food-driven pub, which runs darts and pool teams along with charity events supporting the community.

The developers say turnover has halved since 2006 and had “now dwindled to an unsustainable” level, due to the smoking ban, supermarket alcohol sales, higher duty, the recession and a change of drinking habits in favour of food-orientated pubs. A marketing campaign to sell it in 2008-9 brought “apparent little interest.”

Trading figures indicated a likely net profit of no more than £20,000 before any rent - which has recently been reduced by 20pc rent due to the difficulties, which also prompted a £3,500 reduction in business rates.

Repairs of about £70.000 plus VAT were needed after which half the rent would need to be paid in annual maintenance, which “it is suggested is not sustainable” adds the report, which says the town has “ample establishments” where people can eat and drink which has contributed to the decline of the Railway Tavern.

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