Chance for community to restore Kett’s Tavern in Norwich has ended

Camra pub protection officer Neil Bowers at the former Ketts Tavern which he is unhappy about being

Camra pub protection officer Neil Bowers at the former Ketts Tavern which he is unhappy about being turned into housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Two centuries of history of the Ketts Tavern looks certain to have come to an end as the opportunity for the community to reclaim the building has passed.

The pub on Ketts Hill, latterly known as Virtuoso, had been given planning permission to be turned into flats, and was put on the market for around £350,000 towards the end of last year.

The Norwich and Norfolk branch of Camra successfully listed the building as an asset of community value on July 29, in an attempt to safeguard its future as a pub.

But a six week interim moratorium for expressions of interest in buying the building expired last month, meaning community bids can no longer be accepted for 18 months.

Neil Bowers, pub protection officer for Norwich and Norfolk Camra, said there had been interested parties, and he was 'disappointed' they had not been taken further.

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'After the appeal in the newspaper we had three people come forward to say they were interested in trying to save this pub because they would hate to see it go,' he said. 'I forwarded them on all the relevant details but I never heard anything further. Once the timescale had expired I contacted Norwich City Council, and they confirmed nobody had come forward. Because of that the 18 month moratorium does not apply and all the safeguards are now gone. Planning permission has been granted for housing, and so it will likely become flats or dwellings.

'It is disappointing from a Camra point of view to see such a well-known pub lost, and it is a shame nobody could come forward to save it in the end.'

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While there are a number of other pubs in the city whose futures are uncertain, Mr Bowers said the rate of pubs closing is falling.

'From what I have seen the rate of pubs closing has now gone from 29 pubs a week to 21 pubs a week, so it does look like it is calming down,' he said.

Explaining his decision to sell, the former landlord of Virtuoso Kevin Hopkins said: 'We would like to see it continue as a pub, but if no-one sees the pub as a viable business, then I am left with no choice but to look for an alternative for the building. 'Unfortunately it does get to the point we are working so hard for a small income. That is the difficulty all pubs are in. The business rates are too high, supermarket prices are making people drink at home, and we work too hard for too little reward.'

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