The fight to save a much-loved pub has descended into a bitter legal battle.
The property owners of Muchos Nachos in Whyke Road want to turn it into housing, but saw a planning application rejected in June.
Since then, the effort to save it saw it successfully registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), giving it special protection against future development.
However, the owner, Grace Holdings Limited, has instructed lawyers to pick apart its ACV status, arguing it ‘has been trading as a Mexican restaurant and not as a pub for many years’.
The community, however, strongly disagrees.
City councillor Sarah Sharp said: “We need to challenge these lawyers and their attack on our heritage, our 400 year-old-pub, our community and also Chichester District Council, who agreed to safeguard it.
“We now need to prove that we use and value Muchos Nachos not only for the food but for the lovely fireside experience that you get at a traditional pub.”
Grace Holdings bought the building in April and immediately submitted an application for five houses.
In a statement, Grace said it would ‘retain the property for its investment value, to seek to realise a planning gain.
It said: “Pending such a gain Grace Holdings may, or may not, derive rental income from the property as a Mexican restaurant.
“However it is obviously absurd for an unorganised group of individuals to try and interfere in a private property owner’s affairs by getting a Mexican restaurant listed as an asset of community value.
“That group will never have an opportunity to bid to acquire the freehold of the property, or even if it did such a bid would be refused.
“The owner is therefore entirely correct to seek removal of the property from the council’s list of assets of community value.”
Grace argue it should never have been listed while there is a ‘chronic shortage of housing’, though cllr Sharp said people were already being housed there.
Pub regular Alan Carn called Grace’s comments ‘both inaccurate and dismissive’.
He said: “Firstly they were obviously written by someone with scant local knowledge, and little understanding of the way that the pub/restaurant operates.
“Though it may be a restaurant in name, it has never ceased to be a local pub, in fact it is now the only pub within reasonable walking distance of many people who live in Whyke.”
He said a number of local groups use it to meet and said ‘like many other regulars I have never considered it to be anything other than our local’.
He said its loss would be a ‘considerable loss’ if it goes.