Council bosses have struck a bitter blow to a village’s campaign to save its only pub – and ordered renovations be halted immediately because they claim the work needs planning permission.
Pebmarsh residents celebrated last month after raising more than £350,000 to buy the King’s Head, which has been closed since last year.
Determined to keep the village’s only pub open, a fundraising campaign was launched, attracting wide publicity and backers from all over the world.
But Braintree District Council has now declared that work on restoring the building has to stop until full planning permission has been granted for the work.
The news has come as a shock to the Friends of the King’s Head (FOTKH), the dedicated group of locals masterminding the project, who say the council had indicated there would be no objections from planners.
John Flack, FOTKH chairman, said on Monday: “It is with considerable regret and frustration we have to announce that the grand re-opening of the King’s Head, scheduled for August 27, will now no longer be able to take place in the way originally planned.
“Braintree District Council unexpectedly intervened last week and asked us to stop the repair works.
“It was confirmed on Friday that BDC will not allow us to continue until we receive formal, written consent.
“We believe we were within our rights to repair the building in the manner we started, but unfortunately what was intended as a simple repair to the floor, once started it became clear that full replacement of the central section was needed in order to make it safe for public use.
“We have now submitted listed building and planning applications, covering everything we have done or propose to do prior to opening. These applications will not be determined until the end of September at the earliest.
“Our best estimate of an opening date for the King’s Head is now early November, but we are totally in the hands of Braintree District Council who have unfortunately rejected our pleas that some discretion might be applied to get the pub open earlier.”
Mr Flack spoke of the disappointment at the delay, saying supporters had already put hundreds of unpaid hours into the project and warned it would add considerably to the cost of the work.
The group thanked the couple who will run the pub, Stuart and Debbie Fraser, for their understanding and patience, and added it will celebrate saving the King’s Head as planned, with a beer and wine festival at a marquee in the pub’s garden on August 27.