12:00PM, Thursday 10 May 2018
A much-loved pub has been sold to a property developer just days after the landlord was dismissed, according to the leader of the Royal Borough.
Marc Hunter, the former landlord of Ye Olde Red Lion in Oakley Green, was forced to leave on Monday, May 1 after being given 10 days’ notice.
The pub has now closed down and Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) told the Advertiser it has been sold to a property developer who he is set to meet with ‘imminently’.
Cllr Dudley said: “We are trying to find out what their intentions are and look to retain the site.
“We want to understand what they think they’re doing and try to save this pub.”
Mr Hunter was not given any reason why he lost his job but he said he was told by Punch Taverns, the brewery which owned the pub, that it would not be sold.
He said: “We heard from Punch that they were not trying to sell it. I was very surprised when I heard [it was sold].
“It seems very odd. The surveyors went in to do the survey after the purchase was made.
“If I was buying a pub I would want to do that before the purchase.”
The pub and Mr Hunter are popular in the Oakley Green community, and a petition to save it has gathered more than 12,000 signatures at the time of going to press.
The pub is listed as an Asset of Community Value until March 2020 but, after community members’ bid to buy the pub fell under the £750,000 asking price, they were not able to make another bid.
The building is Grade-II listed but a property developer would still be able to convert the interior into housing, and develop the rest of the site.
Mr Hunter said: “I am totally worried about other pubs. There are only a few left but they are cherry picking the ones they want.”
Cllr Dudley added: “This feeds into concerns we have with ‘Pub Cos’ who are changing pubs into housing.
“We want to retain as many pubs in the Royal Borough as possible.”
Mr Hunter suggested that the council could compulsorily purchase the site and run it as a for-profit or non-profit business for the community.
Punch Taverns did not respond to a request for comment before going to press.
To see the petition to save the Ye Olde Red Lion, visit: https://www.thepetitionsite.com
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