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Pubs battle for conversion

PUBLISHED: 21:00 20 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

OWNERS of two pubs within a mile of each other on the A12 are trying to turn them into homes because their businesses are struggling to survive.

Suffolk Coastal council has already refused permission for the Lion Inn at Little Glemham to be converted, and now planners are recommending that the Bell Inn at Marlesford should also not be allowed to close.

OWNERS of two pubs within a mile of each other on the A12 are trying to turn them into homes because their businesses are struggling to survive.

Suffolk Coastal council has already refused permission for the Lion Inn at Little Glemham to be converted, and now planners are recommending that the Bell Inn at Marlesford should also not be allowed to close.

But the pub owners say there is simply not enough trade to keep them going – and making the property into houses is the only alternative left.

Planners though say closing the businesses in the rural area is against policy and would mean the loss of key village employment sites.

Licensee and owner of the Lion Inn, Sharon Cripps may re-submit her application for conversion with new information about her pub's trade.

She said trading figures received from her accountants reveal a 23 per cent drop in turnover over the past year and a trading debt of £14,000.

She claims the pub was badly hit when planners insisted she remove approach signs for it about a year ago – which wiped out the lunchtime passing trade.

She also feels a long-awaited reduction in the speed limit from 50mph to 30mph would help by giving customers time to see the pub.

"What do we do? We are between a rock and a hard place," she said.

Chef manager Martin Pendle added: "The figures prove this business is failing but it's not through the lack of trying."

Just a mile south at Marlesford, the owner of the listed Bell Inn is facing the same problem.

Mrs S Green has told planners that when she took over the business in August 2000, trade was "not great but enough for us to survive".

However, the opening of a café 300 yards away with a licence had hit the pub's trade badly.

Management had tried opening early for breakfasts, happy hours, bring in pool and darts, juke box, musicians, refurbishing the dining room and employing a top chef, and signs to promote events, but all without success.

Now she is faced with increased insurance costs and the need to do alterations to accommodate people with disabilities under new legislation.

A letter from her accountants to the council said: "Our clients have traded, if at all, on a very limited basis due to the lack of support for a public house among the local community.

"This has resulted in our client closing the business and wanting to apply for a change of usage to residential."

But Marlesford Parish Council wants to pub to stay open, and a report to go before the district council's north area development control sub committee on June 25 recommends refusal for the conversion.

It says the Bell is a "key facility" and there is insufficient evidence to show that it cannot be made financially viable or sold as a going concern or offered to the community to run.

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