New hope for closed Railway Arms pub - now for sale
PUBLISHED: 11:18 16 January 2020
Members and supporters of the campaign group 'Save The Railway Arms Pub' (STRAP) have marked three years since the pub's closure.
Campaigners gathered in front of the pub in Saffron Walden from 11am on January 5, to stress they still care about the pub and are aiming to achieve community ownership.
In the latest development in the STRAP saga, it has been revealed that, just before Christmas, the owners of the pub notified Uttlesford District Council (UDC) of their intention to sell the pub.
STRAP spokesperson Steve Langford said: "This is extremely good news and we are confident that the pub can be purchased for the community."
The decision comes after several planning applications from the owner, the brewery company Charles Wells, were refused by UDC following the pub closure on January 6, 2017.
A year after the closure, the building was given 'Asset of Community Value' status by UDC, and the Saffron Walden Community Pub Ltd raised £250,000 to buy the pub.
They said the owners refused to sell it and submitted planning applications to local authorities instead.
The latest application included plans to redevelop the Railway Arms Pub and reconfigure the site. It was submitted in March last year and rejected towards the end of 2019.
In its decision note to reject the changes submitted, the district council said: "The proposed development by reason of its nature, size, scale, design and siting, would obscure and lose important features resulting in unacceptable harm to the locally-listed building and would result in on-street parking to the detriment of pedestrian and highways safety."
As the pub is now for sale, Dave Kenny, chairman of STRAP, said: "We've been taking advantage of the holidays to put ourselves in the best position to be able to make an offer. We're clear in our '2020 vision' that, after three years of being closed, this year should see the Railway Arms back at the heart of the community.
"Others may step up to buy the pub and, if they can deliver a great pub and community experience for all, utilising all the existing facilities, I'm sure Saffron Walden will support their efforts; certainly the Save The Railway Arms Pub campaign will.
"However, we believe, and our professional advisers have made it clear, that community ownership provides the best opportunity for the Railway Arms to thrive. That is why we established the Saffron Walden Community Pub Ltd, and buying the pub as a community, for the community remains our aim."
Saffron Walden Community Pub Ltd is currently fundraising, with the aim of exercising the community right to bid under the Localism Act 2011.
In the process, they are trying to obtain support from 'More Than A Pub', a business development scheme dedicated to helping rural community pubs and run by Plunkett Foundation.
"Early indications from the 'More Than A Pub' programme suggest we should be successful in a renewed application for support. The prize will be access to their expertise and guidance and up to £100,000 in grants and loans to support our bid," said Mr Kenny, adding:
"We'll be reworking our business case and making sure that our plans for Saffron Walden's first community-owned pub properly reflect the needs of the community."
Further information will be available at the group's next Pub up Pub events on January 31 and February 1 from 6pm at Fairycroft House. You can also visit www.strap.org to find out more.
The pub, which dates back to the 1860s, has been owned by Charles Wells since around 2014.
A spokesperson for Charles Wells said: "As a family-run business, it is important for us to meet the changing needs of the next generation of customers and we are dedicated to continually building on the quality of our estate through ongoing investment into our pubs. While we had various plans to develop The Railway Tavern, we are no longer able to progress with any developments, and, after 10 years of ownership, we have made the decision to sell The Railway Tavern. The pub has fantastic potential and we wish its next owner every success in operation."