Letchworth Grange councillors defend Pelican pub land decision
COUNCILLORS who were consulted on a decision to accept a lower offer for land which will be used as a Tesco Express have defended the move.
The Comet submitted a Freedom of Information request to North Herts District Council after it sold the freehold of the former site of The Pelican pub in Letchworth GC to Greene King in February.
Earlier this month we revealed that the land was sold for �100,000 - �50,000 less than an offer from businessman Sudager Aujla who wanted to keep the pub in Middlefields open.
The three district councillors - two who represent the Conservatives and one Labour - for the Grange have all backed the decision, which will see the site become a Tesco Express in the autumn after a deal for the lease was reached with Greene King.
Cllr Paul Marment said: “I didn’t want it to be a political decision - we all took what we thought was the best option at the time. I can understand why people are concerned about it and I know its difficult for people in retail at the moment. We need to keep a beady eye on it and my concern would be what Tesco come up with for opening hours on the Grange.
“We were told by the officers that to turn the pub around it would have involved very large sums and I have to respect the officers when they say to us that they didn’t see it as viable.”
Cllr Dave Chambers believes the competition between shops on The Parade - including Mr Aujla’s Nisa store - and Tesco is healthy.
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He said: “The way I look at it is - should we be afraid of competition? No. Personally I’m all for it because if you can go to the Tesco shop let’s say for a loaf of bread and it’s �1 or the Nisa store for �1.50 then you’ve got a choice. Everybody has a choice, nobody is being forced to shop at Tesco.”
Regarding turning down a higher offer from Mr Aujla, Cllr Chambers added: “I don’t believe it’s always down to money. We’ve gone with Greene King because in all fairness Greene King have had the lease for many years and we don’t know Mr Aujla apart from he’s got a Nisa shop. He could’ve boarded the pub up and left it. That’s what happened with the Carousel pub on the Jackmans and we wern’t prepared to take that chance.”
Cllr David Kearns said: “We had to take into consideration how long the public house might be left empty. People can say they would much prefer the pub but in my view those same people did not use it.”
The Labour councillor added that he was the only one to raise concerns about the future of shops at The Parade.