Dismayed villagers face the renewed prospect of losing their local pub after its owner reignited plans to convert it into a house.
The writing looked to be on the wall last year for Slapton’s historic Carpenters Arms when Alan Dugard, of Interguide Group, who owns the Horton Road property, put in a change of use application.
Mr Dugard had said the premises, which originally closed in October 2017, was no longer profitable and wasn’t being supported by the village.
But just when all seemed lost Leighton Buzzard man Kabby Kholo-Kholo and his wife Leane struck a deal with Mr Dugard to take on the premises - for an initial six months - to see if they could make a go of it.
With that trial period now up, Mr Kholo-Kholo claims he was keen to build on the success he had generated , but has told the LBO he was dismayed that when he made an offer to buy the pub, Mr Dugard upped the asking price.
However, Mr Dugard this week insisted he had never received any offer and that the pub had remained unprofitable despite Mr Kholo-Kholo’s best efforts – hence his submission of a fresh bid to convert the Carpenter’s Arms into a house.
He pointed to a letter submitted as part of the planning application which Mr Kholo-Kholo had written to him in October stating his “great regret” it hadn’t worked out. It also said: “Most of the people to whom petitioned to keep the pub open we have never seen. I have no choice but to leave as financially this cannot work.”
Mr Dugard said the pub had been advertised for sale for over 15 months for offers over £525,000 but this was then dropped to offers over £495,000. He said due to the condition of the ageing building he’d then had no choice but to spend around £50,000 on refurbishing it both internally and externally so it had a chance of reopening as a bar/restaurant and Mr Kholo-Kholo duly took on the premises.
Mr Dugard said the asking price was now £575,000 to reflect the enhanced condition due to his outlay on the refurbishment.
This had included a new thatched roof , new bars , new commercial open kitchen, new central heating, new cellar, and a full refurbishment of the living accommodation.
He said Mr Kholo-Kholo – who has now decided to purchase The Dolphin in Stoke Hammond instead – had avoided signing a lease or tenancy agreement.
He added: “He tried but it was not supported by the local community again. It cost him as it has me for 12 years - approximately £19,000 per year – and the only way that this beautiful building will survive another 600 years is if it becomes somebody’s home.”
The paperwork to Aylesbury Vale District Council insists the new application is due to the “failure of the business to provide a profitable return” and that the tenant had found that “it is not viable as a public house”.
It states that Mr Dugard’s first application was only turned down by AVDC last year because of claims by Mr Kholo-Kholo that the pub was viable – and adds that no evidence of the income was provided to the council.
But the latest application has prompted plenty of objections being submitted to AVDC again, including from the parish council.
One local wrote: “The re-opening of the pub in June was a joyous event. The village had, during its period of closure, lost a source of life and vitality but this immediately returned. The community embraced the offer wholeheartedly, really enjoying having this historic pub back at the centre of village life.”