Pub firm criticised for mass sell-off

A pub company whose property deals have prompted the demise of a raft of historic Norfolk drinking haunts has drawn criticism from campaigners and landlords.

Last week saw the closure of the 200-year-old Cherry Tree pub on Theatre Street after it was sold by Enterprise Inns – with the new owners believed to be in the restaurant trade.

Departing landlord Mark Perry complained of a lack of support and investment from Enterprise.

And those sentiments were echoed last night by a second Dereham landlord who said he has been forced into a similar position by the Birmingham-based company.

Paul Amos, who manages the Coachmakers Arms on Norwich Road, said he had trebled the pubs takings since taking over in June. But he has been unable to convince Enterprise not to go through with a proposed sale, so has handed in a month's notice on his tenancy.

He said he was 'devastated' to be leaving – and worried his pub could suffer the same fate as the Cherry Tree and several other Enterprise pubs in the region which have been lost to alternative uses or development.

'I just think they don't care and it is such a shame that it looks like Dereham is going to lose another pub,' he said.

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'I am going to have to explain this to our pool team and our darts team, and then I'm going to have to look for another job. It is a nightmare. I've had two people look round, and neither wanted to keep it as a pub.

'I wouldn't mind if we had done a rubbish job, but we have not – and that is what is so heartbreaking. We have turned it round and they have just kicked us in the teeth.'

Other formerly Enterprise-owned buildings which have been erased from Norfolk's pub map include three in Norwich which have been lost in the last three months. The Canary, on Watling Road in Heartsease, closed earlier this month after city councillors reluctantly agreed to grant permission for it to make way for affordable homes.

In December, months of speculation over the future of The Firs pub in Hellesdon came to an end after it emerged that Tesco had lodged a string of planning applications to renovate the vacant Cromer Road building. And in October, developers secured permission to build flats on the site of the 19th-century James I in Drayton Road, Mile Cross.

Mike Spivey, pub preservation officer for the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said: 'If Enterprise is going to sell a pub, they seem to be going out of their way to sell it to someone who has no intention to run it as a pub.

'It is depressing and mystifying when they appear to be closing pubs which seem to be making a decent living. 'Why, when they are thriving, are they depriving the locals who are giving them that custom in the first place?'

Enterprise spokesman Vicky Averis said: 'As part of the ongoing development of our estate we do, from time to time identify pubs that we feel no longer have a long term future in our estate, with a view to disposing of them, but do not place any restrictions on their future use.

'Whilst a small number of pubs have been identified for disposal, Enterprise Inns remains committed to its very substantial estate of pubs in East Anglia.'