Village clutching at straws over pub roof

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The owners of a 1950s pub in medieval Lavenham have defended their decision to replace its thatched roof with modern tiles.

Gavin Spencer and his wife Val took over the running of the pub in Lavenham nearly eight years ago.

They recently applied for planning permission to replace the old thatched roof with clay tiles, a cost-effective alternative.

The roof, which has been there since the pub was built in 1953, has come to the end of its serviceable life, say the couple.

And they want to be able to have real fires in the pub – something they cannot currently do because of the high cost of insurance needed to be able to have an open fire in a building with a thatched roof.

But Mr Spencer said the couple’s plans were met with some resistance when debated recently by the village’s parish council.

He said: “It’s not that they are against it, or have put up any objections as such, it’s just that some of the councillors thought it was a shame the thatch was going to go because they liked how it looked because of where it is in the village.

“But I think people can see we are obviously not a Tudor building – the pub has bay windows – and it’s directly opposite some 1960s bungalows with tiled roofs.”

He added: “It’s not like we are in the medieval market square next to the lovely Guildhall.”

The pub is not listed and Mr Spencer said there was a perception by some people that, because the pub has a thatched roof, it is in fact a Tudor building.

He said the wetter weather had been a factor in the couple’s decision to change the roofing material.

“Even the thatcher agrees that because of the wetter weather conditions we are experiencing at the moment, it would be better not to have thatch because it doesn’t last as long.

“This was a factor we took into consideration, the future weather patterns.

“You are taking about thousands of pounds more to replace the roof with new thatch.”

Mr Spencer said the plans had now been approved by Babergh District Council and the couple’s architect had been to see them recently to show them tile samples and to discuss getting the work on the roof started.

He added: “All the signs are that it’s going to go ahead.”

The couple moved to Suffolk fromEssex and have more than 20 years’ experience in the licensed trade, moving to Lavenham in 2006.