Letchworth pub closure sparks shop fears

SHOP owners on an estate have raised fears that if a supermarket takes over an empty pub “three or four shops will close”.

Businesses at The Parade in Southfields, Letchworth GC, spoke to The Comet after we revealed last week that The Pelican pub has shut.

Speculation is growing on the Grange Estate that the site in Middlefields could re-open as a Tesco Express, despite the nearby shopping precinct housing a Nisa convenience store, a Martin’s newsagents, the Grange Pharmacy and the Grange Wine Store.

North Hertfordshire District Council own the freehold of the land and Greene King, who said the pub had to close because it was “not viable”, hold a 99-year lease for the building, which runs out in 2064.

In a bid to save the pub and protect his own business, Nisa owner Sudager Aujla has made an offer to the council for the freehold, but told The Comet he has received a letter from the district council this week which says an agreement has been made with Greene King, although a contract has not yet been signed.

Mr Aujla said: “I took the shop over 15 years ago from the council’s control and now it feels like they are stabbing me in the back. I would keep the pub open and if Greene King don’t want to run it I will buy the lease and run it. I’m putting my money on the line to save my business and I don’t know what else I’m suppose to do.”

Regarding the prospect of having a Tesco Express on The Parade’s doorstep, he added: “We’ve already got enough shops there so there’s no need for it and all that’s going to happen is three or four shops will close and that’s hardly going to look good for the council.”

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Owner of the Grange Pharmancy, Vijay Gandecha, said: “All the shops in The Parade are giving a very good community service to the people of the Grange Estate. Those who are making this decision should think very carefully because there is a proprietor who is willing to run it as a pub. This is a great British tradition and one that will disappear.”

Bruce Ginn, of KLM Trophy Centre, added: “Whatever is going on there I just think they have got to be careful about what they are doing because on an estate like this we’re going to stick together. If a supermarket comes that could be disastrous for the shops in this area.”

Planning permission would not be needed to change the use of The Pelican from a drinking establishment to retail but would be required if external alterations are made to the building, advertisement signage or car parking provision.

The council were unable to comment on the situation regarding the freehold at present but a spokesman said a statement will be made by the end of the week.

Greene King reiterated it was still “unable to confirm future plans for the pub” and a Tesco spokesman said the company would not comment on individual cases until an agreement is reached or an application is made.