Campaign dealt blow as village pub closes

BOARDED UP: From left, Gavin Fance, Dave Lilley, Ryan Fance, Ross Lilley and Tim Fance are fighting to save The Highbury Barn.
BOARDED UP: From left, Gavin Fance, Dave Lilley, Ryan Fance, Ross Lilley and Tim Fance are fighting to save The Highbury Barn.

A campaign to save an 18th-century pub from being demolished and replaced with a supermarket will continue, despite it being closed down.

Punch Taverns closed The Highbury Barn, in Canhams Road, Great Cornard, on Thursday, citing the business as no longer being viable.

Earlier this month, Babergh District Council put in place measures to prevent the pub from being demolished without first gaining planning permission.

Punch Taverns has applied to build a £1million, 325-square-metre retail unit on the site, which could provide as many as 35 full and part-time jobs.

Gavin Fance, organiser of the Save the Barn campaign, said: “This doesn’t change anything.

“It doesn’t surprise me, it was obviously done to try to improve the chances of getting the planning permission through, but December would have been a lucrative month as the pub has a large function area, which had several bookings.”

Mr Fance said that a party held at the pub two weeks ago, along with a private function, had made around £8,000. “Punch Taverns says it isn’t viable but it didn’t take much to make a bit of money,” he said.

A Babergh District Council spokeswoman said there had been three objections to the plans, including one from Great Cornard Parish Council’s development committee.

She added that none of the 17 representations made by groups, including Suffolk County Council’s highways department, Suffolk Police and several district council officers, voiced objections to the plans.

Mr Fance said online and paper petitions against the plans had reached nearly 200 signatures, and that efforts were now focused on ensuring the premises was widely advertised to encourage new landlords.

“If it can’t sell it, then maybe we’d have to concede it isn’t viable but I am confident it could be sold,” he added.

Babergh District Council’s local plan does not require Punch Taverns to market the pub for its current use, as there would be no loss of employment from the proposed use as a supermarket. Punch Taverns declined to comment further.