The saga surrounding the fate of Bressingham’s last remaining public house has deepened further after a Norfolk businessman lodged a bid last week to purchase the property in the hope that he would be allowed to re-open it as a pub once again.
Mervyn Lambert, owner of Garboldisham-based business Mervyn Lambert Plant Ltd, placed an offer of £225,000 on Friday to buy the Chequers Inn on Low Road from its current owners, Michael and Hazel Knox-Johnston, who submitted a change-of-use planning application that, if approved, would see the property transform into a boutique bed-and-breakfast.
Mr Lambert claimed he had received a report from agents TW Gaze last Thursday stating there was evidence that the property, which has been closed to the public for almost two years following short-lived tenancies by two separate owners, could still be a viable pub business.
He told the Diss Express: “Obviously, they (the owners) don’t want to open it as a pub and they don’t think it’s viable, but I disagree. We (Bressingham residents) want it back as our village pub.
Mr Lambert said he had not received acknowledgement of his bid as of Wednesday, and did not anticipate a response until a decision had been made on the planning application, which is expected some time after the end of the public consultation period on September 1.
He added: “I have an open mind. The offer is on the table. If the application is unsuccessful, then they will have to consider their options.”
A group of villagers lobbying for the Chequers Inn to be placed on South Norfolk Council’s Community Asset Register are said to have put their petition on hold to see what the outcome of this new bid is.
The Diss Express contacted Last and Tricker Partnership, the agents representing Mr and Mrs Knox-Johnston, but they declined to comment.
However, in a recent letter to South Norfolk Council, Mr Knox-Johnston stated their research into the area’s recent history had shown a lack of local support to maintain a profitable pub and suggested the White Hart in Roydon and the White Horse in South Lopham as alternative pubs for Bressingham residents.
He wrote: “If there was a demand for this pub and it had some expectation of being successful, why did Marstons and Wetherspoons, two national pub companies, not buy it when it could have been purchased for significantly less than the new builds they have and are building in Diss?”
South Norfolk Council confirmed that this development, as well as any evidence for or against the building’s future viability as a pub business, would be taken into account for the application’s final decision.
The council’s policy states, however, that they cannot force the owners to sell their property against their wishes.