Heritage status could save under-threat Suffolk pub from the bulldozers

The White Horse, Felixstowe.

The White Horse is set to be made a Non-Designated Heritage Asset - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A much-loved historic Suffolk pub looks set to be saved from demolition after a senior conservation expert said it should be designated special heritage status.

Campaigners are fighting to stop the popular century-old White Horse public house at Old Felixstowe from being pulled down to make way for a convenience store with four flats above and two three-bed bungalows in its car park.

More than 400 people have objected to the proposals, along with Felixstowe Town Council, the Felixstowe Society and Fair Play for Felixstowe. 

The Save the White Horse campaign is asking East Suffolk Council to list the pub in Church Road as a Community Asset - which would enable the community to put together a buy-out bid.

Now their hopes of saving the pub have been strengthened by the council's design and conservation officer Thomas Pierce, who feels the building should be made a Non Designated Heritage Asset (NDHA), which would give it protection from the bulldozers.

He said: "This is because it meets the criteria for both architectural and historic interest. For architectural interest it possesses Landmark Status, due to both its prominent position in the bend of Church Road as well as its communal associations.

The White Horse, Felixstowe.

The White Horse, Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

"The architect may have been Thomas Cotman but that would need to be verified before it could be classified as having a Known Architect.

"For historic interest it possesses rarity as a ‘Reformed’ pub. Its arts and crafts design gives it representativeness (also the being part of the legacy of Thomas Cotman if confirmed). It also has considerable social and communal value, as a source of local identity as well as location of social interaction, as indicated by the public response to the scheme.

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"As the building therefore meets the requirements to be classified as an NDHA, it cannot be demolished."

Phil Cobbold from the Felixstowe Society said the architect was definitely Thomas Cotman - designer of many of Felixstowe's best-known buildings, including the Felix Hotel (Harvest House) and many in Ipswich - and the Suffolk Archives has confirmed that it holds his original architect's drawings for the White Horse.

CPC Planning Consultants Limited, for owners Punch Taverns, said the majority of the trade at the pub was "drink focussed" relying on local regulars rather than food and people from outside the area.

It said: "The pub has recently found a declining trade, with a significant drop in revenue in 2019. Businesses such as the one run at White Horse have been unable to compete in the current market due to the lack of a food offering and declining wet sales resulting in the business as loss-making.

"Even with a substantial investment, in the region of circa £150,000, to improve the condition and presentation of the property, reflective of the existing choice in the immediate area, this would not attract any additional trade."