Monday, 27 September 2021

Residents fear losing post office as pub deal stalls

A VILLAGE could be left without a post office as negotiations continue over the future of

A VILLAGE could be left without a post office as negotiations continue over the future of a former pub.

The Four Horseshoes in Main Street, Checkendon, was set to become a post office, shop and tea rooms after Brakspear was granted planning permission.

The business was going to be run by Hannah Knight, a new business specialist, and Dee Biberian, a musician and landscape gardener, from London.

But the negotations appear to have slowed after Ms Knight decided not to include a post office in the business plan, to the annoyance of villagers.

Tom Davies, chief executive of the pub company, said it was still searching for a tenant for the pub, which ceased trading in 2013.

He said: “We were talking to a couple of operators who are still potentially on the cards but they have gone a bit quiet on us to be honest.

“It has to be a commercial venture for them to take it on. I’m waiting for someone to come forward and and say, ‘I want to do it’.

“We’d be delighted to get something open as soon as possible but it’s the case of someone wanting to run a business.”

Meanwhile, the village post office, which is part of the village stores in Whitehall Lane, is set to be turned into a house.

Bal Budesha, who runs the business, has been given planning permission to convert the premises into a three- or four-bedroom home, which would mean the closure of the post office counters, sorting office and shop.

Mr Budesha had tried to sell the business for more than three years without success.

Checkendon parish clerk Claire Dunk confirmed that Ms Knight did not want to run the post office and shop as well as a tea rooms.

She said: “The planning permission states that the business must include an element of retail that will serve the local community but given that the current business of Checkendon Stores is not viable it would be unrealistic to insist a new business must have elements of a failing one.

“Tom Davies maintains the right to continue negotiations to move forward towards a tenancy agreement with Hannah.

“Recognising the frustration of residents who would wish another tenant, he is endeavouring to bring matters to fruition.

“If Bal resigns, which we stress is his personal decision, then it is likely that there would be an interregnum with no post office facility in Checkendon.

“The Post Office cannot put in any measures for an outreach facility until a resignation is received.

“We can request that an outreach service be put in place in the village. This involves a postmaster from a nearby post office travelling to the village with a laptop and basic financial services.

“This would be very limited, only a few hours a week, but vital to those who are unable to travel outside the village.

“The parish council knows how badly the village needs a retail and post office service. Bal has said he has another potential person who could run facilities at the Four Horseshoes and if the partnership between Hannah and Brakspear does not reach fruition he will make sure the parties are connected.”

Meanwhile, the Four Horseshoes has been nominated as an asset of community value.

It is not known who nominated it but Mrs Dunk confirmed that it wasn’t the parish council.

Once a property has been registered as an asset of community value, the owner must give the community six months to come up with an offer to buy it before it goes on the open market, although it doesn’t have to accept a bid.

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