HENLEY’S oldest pub lost thousands of pounds in takings due to its unnecessarily lengthy forced closure following a scaffolding collapse, its landlord has claimed.
The Old Bell in Bell Street, was able to reopen on Friday, more than a week after it was forced to close when a Biffa tipper truck hit scaffolding outside the Clarks shoe shop opposite the pub.
The scaffolding crashed across the road on to the Old Bell and the impact smashed tiles on the edge of the pub roof and ripped the guttering from the wall as well as scraping exposed timbers and smashing a window.
Businesses on both sides of the road between Sainsbury’s Local and W H Smith had to shut all day and Bell Street was closed to traffic, causing jams on roads in and out of the town.
The Brakspear pub, which dates back to the 14th century, was closed until Oxfordshire County Council removed barriers outside.
Now Bill Dobson, landlord of the much-loved pub, claims that there was no reason for the pub to remain closed for so long. He estimates he lost around £4,000 in takings during the closure.
He said it was only after he made a series of phone calls that the barriers were finally removed.
“It was very frustrating and there has been no apology,” said Dobson.
“When I called the Health and Safety Executive they were quite surprised that the pub was not open again. I told them that the county council would not move the barriers until they gave their consent.
“It was ridiculous people having to walk into the road, risking life and limb for no reason.”
A council spokesman said: “The council was called by the police to close the road for safety reasons after a Biffa vehicle struck the scaffolding next to the pub.
“Having been asked to place the barriers on site to protect public safety, we sought, then awaited, confirmation from the Health and Safety Executive that it was safe to remove the barriers.
“When this confirmation was ultimately given to us via the landlord of the building, we removed the barriers. The council acted in response to a request from the police to close the road — we do not inspect or carry out safety checks of
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: “We helped to make things safe and we will be looking at what happened and the circumstances around it.
“The council took on securing safety with the pub in particular. Our responsibility with the scaffolding was to make sure that the area was safe.
“The scaffolding was secured on that day and sorted out on the Friday. Some barriers were put up but that was nothing to do with us and taking them away was down to the council.” The spokeswoman conceded that there had been a misunderstanding with the council, adding: “The council thought it was to do with us but as far as we are concerned we didn’t say the barriers needed to be put up.
“We are going to be looking into the incident to make sure it does not happen again but the police were very pleased with the way that the executive dealt with the incident.”
Mr Dobson said he was relieved to be serving drinks again.
“People are all pleased to be back,” he said. “This is a local and people have been meeting in here for ages.”