Controversy is brewing over plans to close Hampden Park’s last remaining pub The Parkfield.
Punch Taverns owns the building and has applied to town planners to change the use of the 55-year-old building to retail and demolish part of it.
But landlords Owen and Dionne Williams as well as their regular customers are furious at the plans and say they knew nothing about them until they read about them in the Herald last month.
A petition has now been handed in to Eastbourne Borough Council calling for the plans to be thrown out.
The proposals by Punch Tavern, which also owns The Pubb in Lottbridge Drove and the Tally Ho in Old Town, were submitted in September and the firm said since it had been running the pub from 2005 it had a chequered performance and over the past three to four years the pub had struggled.
Jon Heald from Punch Taverns said the company was financially propping up The Parkfield with low rent and wholesale beer discounts but it was “artificially” keeping the pub trading and as a landlord, in the current economic climate, it could no longer continue to do so.
Mr Heald said, “Prior to taking this decision, the site was extensively marketed for other public house operators but due to the site’s trading history and the proximity of a number of other public houses like the Wheatsheaf Inn and the Red Lion, experienced operators were reticent to enter into negotiations for a lease.
“In short, the market was not convinced there is enough business within the local area to support this pub, which also requires a significant amount of capital investment and operators are unwilling to take on this expense. Punch Taverns therefore has had to take the difficult decision to try to develop the site in another way.
“We appreciate that feelings within a community when a pub is lost to alternative use; however I have to ask how many of those residents actively supported the pub. If the pub was well supported by the local residents then our company would not be considering the proposed redevelopment. Unfortunately the opposite is the case.”
But landlord Owen says the pub is financially viable.
“Punch make profit every week from this pub,” he said. “Had proper investment been made that would have seen a further rise in the profits however Punch has chosen to allow this pub to deteriorate.
“I have no knowledge of this pub being extensively marketed. I contacted Punch regarding the sale of the freehold and was dismissed with a price of £500,000. This is our home too and the way we have been treated is appalling.”
The plans by Punch Tavern have been labelled a disgrace by the Conservative ward councillor for the area Colin Belsey.
He said, “I have known the Parkfield for many years and do confess had a pint or two over that time. We already have two pubs standing empty owned by Punch and it seems to me that they buy up pubs to close them and then sell off for development.
“The Parkfield has been part of the community since it was built and still has excellent facilities for people to hire and of course is still a going concern as a public house.
“This would be a serious community loss especially with no other pub within nearly a mile and no other pub in north eastern side of Eastbourne. Does this area seriously need another retail food outlet? I think not. It would have serious concerns for other local shops on the Broadway with the possibility of closures of shops already there.”
The plans will be considered by the planning committee later this year.