Supermarket blow in fight to save pub

AN UPHILL BATTLE: Gavin Fance, right, with some of the Save the Barn group members outside the pub.
AN UPHILL BATTLE: Gavin Fance, right, with some of the Save the Barn group members outside the pub.

The campaign to retain an 18th century building in Great Cornard as a pub has suffered a major setback after councillors backed plans to turn it into a shop.

Members of Great Cornard Parish Council agreed to approve outline proposals to change the Highbury Barn in Canhams Road into a retail unit.

Pam White, chairman of the development and planning committee, said councillors had taken into account the fact the building has been left redundant since the pub closed more than a year ago.

“We all felt the same, that if it is just left it would become derelict and become an eyesore,” said Mrs White.

The decision is a bitter blow to those who want to save the pub and are opposing plans from owner Punch Taverns to turn it into a supermarket.

Gavin Fance, of Sycamore Road, has spearheaded the Save the Barn group, made up of former regulars. He said given the pub was recently registered as an asset of community value, councillors should have given more thought to their decision.

“I am very disappointed and I think the decision was made on very little information,” he said.

“The pub is a key asset and although Cornard is expanding in terms of housing, it is losing community assets. They have sided with a big company trying to make money.”

As the pub is classed as a community asset, campaigners would be given a limited time to come up with funds to buy the building, were it to be put up for sale.

Despite the owner appearing set to press ahead with plans to change it into a retail unit, Mr Fance said this was still a possibility and he remained positive.

“The parish council are only advisers and it is not the end of the world,” he said.

“We will continue without their support and hope the change of use does not go through.

“We are looking at how we could take on the pub on a sharehold basis, with people buying into shares so the community has a share.”

Mrs White said the committee still held out hope that the group would get the opportunity to put their plan into action.

“It is a matter of waiting and seeing what the exact plans for the shop will be,” she said.

“If the group can get the backing to buy it then fair enough, but they would also need the money to keep it going.”

The proposals will go before Babergh District Council soon.