Thursday, 20 June 2019

Parish council interested in £495,000 sale of pub

ONE of Benson’s two pubs has been put up for sale.

The Crown Inn in High Street is owned by Suffolk brewer Greene King, which is offering the freehold for £495,000.

Benson Parish Council, which has listed the pub as an asset of community value, wants to be treated as a potential bidder.

Assets of community value were introduced in the 2011 Localism Act and give communities six months to bid on a property before it can be sold on the open market, although the seller doesn’t have to accept a bid.

Council chairman Bill Pattison said: “I’ve spoken to some people who would like us to notify our intentions so it gives a moratorium of six months on the potential sale and us more time to discuss the matter.

“Although it would be sad to lose a pub in the High Street, it could be a tremendous opportunity to provide additional parking, which we desperately need. It is an opportunity to possibly do something else — I’ve got no problem if someone wanted to take it on as a free house.”

Councillor John Sharman said he couldn’t see how the council could possibly buy the pub but felt there was no harm in discussing it.

Councillor Stephen McCann added: “It’s an asset of community value so we should at least have a think about it and stick our hat in the ring on that basis and see what the community thinks.”

Fleurets is marketing the pub, which has six en-suite letting rooms, an enclosed courtyard/terrace and outbuildings offering “further potential”.

Last October, the parish council withdrew its interest in buying land currently used as a beer garden at the pub.

Greene King wanted to sell the 4,000 sq ft section but the council pulled out of a possible deal after the brewery said the only access to the land was via the pub car park but there was no right of way over this.

The pub has had a string of landlords in recent years.

From July 2013 until early 2016 it was run by Germaine and Tim
Cullimore.

In January 2015 the Cullimores asked the parish council to consider the idea of the pub becoming community owned, saying they could no longer make a living from the business even though they worked 16 hours a day.

In March 2016 it was taken over by Gary Flux, who runs the Shepherd’s Hut in Ewelme, but he left in September.

Since December the Crown has been managed by Tim Harwood who said takings were increasing and the accommodation had been re-opened at a reasonable price.

He said: “It has been leasehold and tenanted for a while and not been particularly successful and I think that Greene King eventually decided it didn’t fit their profile.

“My boss takes pubs in distress and we look after them for the period, keep them going until they are either sold or re-tenanted.

“There are only two pubs left in Benson — ourselves and the Three Horseshoes. Ten years ago there were six pubs and a nightclub.”

Mr Harwood said he welcomed the idea of the Crown becoming a community-owned pub and the customers were proud of it.

“I think they are scared of losing it to development but Greene King can only sell it as a pub,” he added.

A Greene King spokeswoman said: “As a leading pub operator and brewer, we are committed to running high-quality community pubs.

“To be able to continue to invest in our estate, from time to time we have to make difficult decisions and therefore, after much consideration, we have decided to put the Crown on the market.

“In the meantime, the pub remains open and trading as usual.”

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