Fenland District Council steps in to save Wimblington pub - making it three in a row for district

PUBLISHED: 11:14 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:14 05 February 2016

The Anchor Inn in Wimblington.

The Anchor Inn in Wimblington.

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Fenland Council added a third to its growing collection of pubs it has saved after rejecting a brewery's bid to turn the Anchor at Wimblington into a convenience store.

Despite the promise of 22 new jobs, the council stuck rigidly to a policy that has stopped the Black Hart at Thorney Toll and the Ship at Purls Bridge, Manea, being converted to homes.

Massive public opposition in Wimblington to Marston’s closing the last pub in the village attracted 205 objections, including the parish council.

Now Fenland Council has put its viability criteria to the test and rejected Marston’s claim of a “lack of well-funded and experienced operators” prepared to take on the Anchor. The council also said Marston’s view of diminishing trade does not accord with the evidence of the pub having only been closed on few occasions since 2007 and significant investment in the business since 2013.

The council concluded “there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the use is no longer viable” and indeed the fact it remains open “and seemingly vibrant” does suggest good usage.

“The pub has also not been marketed and there is also significant support for it” says the council.

Marston’s were told that if the Anchor closed it would lead to an “unbalancing of the facilities within the village centre” which is not acceptable.

Earlier in the week a Government inspector backed the council’s strict rules on pub closures by telling the owners of the Black Hart at Thorney Toll – closed four years ago because of falling trade- that they have not done enough to prove the pub is unviable.

The ruling backed the refusal by Fenland District Council to allow its demolition and replacement with six homes.

Karen Baker, the inspector who conducted an appeal, said: “There is insufficient substantiated evidence before me to justify the loss of the public house.”

The pub, which sits alongside the A47, was closed in 2012 and later sold off by Elgood’s; it had been offered for sale with a guide price of £120,000.

The appeal heard that there was no major concern by the parish council to retain it as a pub and they had backed the plan to build houses there.

But the inspector agreed with Fenland Council that “insufficient evidence has been submitted to show that the public house has not been financially viable and has been marketed appropriately”.

The decisions follow an earlier refusal to allow Wayne Bishop of the Ship at Purls Bridge to turn it into housing.

Three times he applied and was refused permission to convert the pub – once even turned down on appeal to the Government- and now he’s received a fourth rejection.

Planners insist the pub could have a viable future.

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