East Wittering community given chance to buy historic pub

Community groups have six months to buy the Royal Oak pub before it goes on the market
Community groups have six months to buy the Royal Oak pub before it goes on the market

AN SOS has been sounded to a community to step in and buy an historic pub and hotel while it has the chance.

The Royal Oak in East Wittering has gone up for sale and community groups have a first option to buy it for the next six months.

Robert Harden, who was part of the Save Our Village campaign, is asking for ideas for the historic building

Robert Harden, who was part of the Save Our Village campaign, is asking for ideas for the historic building

“The building is such a wonderful community asset and now we have this opportunity to keep it that way,” said villager Robert Harden.

“It’s a huge pub and a great venue. It used to be a hotel as well with around ten rooms and hotels are badly needed in East Wittering.”

There was uproar amongst villagers when the Southern Cooperative bought the building, located on Stocks Lane, several years ago.

Despite a huge battle led by Save Our Village East Wittering, the Co-Op won planning permission to turn the building, estimated to be 300 years old, into a modern supermarket.

But in June last year the supermarket chain made a shock U-turn, announcing its plans were ‘no longer economically viable’, and this month it put the building up for sale.

During the battle villagers successfully registered the building as a Community Asset, and after seeing it had gone back on sale, Mr Harden wrote to Chichester District Council, who have now confirmed there is a Community Right to Bid on it before it goes on the market.

Any community group or local person now has six weeks to make their interest known in the site, and six months to lodge an official offer.

According to the district council ‘there is not a formal asking price but the Southern Cooperative suggest that their valuation is in the region of £1,000,000.

Mr Harden, who was part of the original campaign to save the building along with his late wife and son, said: “I would estimate someone would need around £1,400,000 to buy it and do it back up.

“Obviously it would be great if it was kept as a pub and hotel because it’s ideal for it with a lot of space and a massive garden. But it is open to other suggestions, the important thing is it’s kept as a community asset.

He added: “The campaign was never about drinkers saying ‘don’t close our pub’. It was about the threat to our village and all the independent businesses who would no doubt have shut down.

“There was a lot of noise when the Co-Op bought it but now we have the chance to keep it we need a local organisation, investor or benefactor to come forward and show interest.

“It would be a great shame if this opportunity was missed, and if goes on the market again in six months no doubt it would just be bought by another supermarket or turned into housing.”

Members of the community have to express a desire in purchasing the building to Chichester District Council by Wednesday, March 2, 2016, and have until July 20, 2016 to buy it.

Mr Harden has said he is happy to coordinate ideas for the building, and any emails to news@chiobserver.co.uk will be sent on to him.

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