Otley Pub Club slam Westward Care and Leeds City Council for the boarded-up Summercross pub on the Tour de France route

Otley Pub Club slam Westward Care and Leeds City Council for the boarded-up Summercross pub on the Tour de France route

Otley Pub Club have slammed Westward Care and Chartford Homes, for the current state of the former Summercross pub, in Otley’s conservation area. The community organisation have also criticised Leeds City Council, who wrongly gave planning permission to Westward Care, despite vigorous opposition from the local community, Otley Town Council, the three local Leeds City Councillor’s and the town’s MP.

The pub was turned around by licensees Barry and Pamela Mills having previously been a Punch Taverns hotel, but then in a cynical deal between developers, the pub was sold for a vast sum based on its value as a development site. The couple were kicked out and the pub shut despite the community ‘Save our Summercross’ campaign.

The feeling amongst Otley residents and representatives alike is that there is a cynical and deliberate tactic being employed by the developers to allow the building, now without part of its side wall and partially exposed to the elements, to fall into disrepair, so they can then reapply for permission to demolish it.

Planning permission was given in 2009 for a care home, which included keeping the current building and the ancient boundary wall. These are in the Otley Conservation Area. However with no progress a full five years later, fears are growing that this was all along a cynical application, considering that sister company Chartford Homes always wanted to demolish the famous old pub (which dates back to the 19th century and is believed uniquely named) to build 14 lucrative town houses on the site. The concern now is that the two companies, who share directors, are failing to properly protect it so they can demolish the building and build the houses they wanted all along.

Otley Pub Club has now written to Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, asking them to take action against Westward Care for failing to maintain the building, force them to repair and maintain it – and also to investigate why the Leeds City Council Plans Panel were duped into giving planning permission in 2009 for a care home, which over five years later hasn’t happened – and it seems clear is unlikely to ever do so in the form approved by the Council.

Otley & Yeadon Councillor Ryk Downes, who is also a member of Otley Pub Club, has also taken up this issue by writing to Westward Care, asking them to tidy up the site before the Tour de France.

http://rykdownes.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/03/14/summercross-eyesore/

Andy FitzGerald, Chair of Otley Pub Club commented:

““Otley Pub Club are delighted that the first town the Tour de France 2014 will cycle through Otley which is great for the town’s famous pubs. Yet thanks to these cynical developers, the first one they will see is the sorry sight of the famous Summercross, the only pub of that name in the country, closed and boarded up.  

“The way Westward Care and Chartford Homes have behaved over the Summercross is disgraceful. Not only did Chartford Homes close a profitable pub and kick out the couple who were making a success of it, then in 2012 they cynically demolished the toilet block just before planning permission ran out.  Now it seems that the deliberate tactic is to wait till the building is beyond repair then apply for permission to knock it down.  

“We still believe that the shameful way developers colluded over the closure of this profitable pub was disgraceful and that Leeds City Council plans panel members who voted for the care home, which still hasn’t been started five years later, got this fundamentally wrong. It is high time that Leeds City Council did a proper investigation into how they fell for this – and why the community east of Otley lost its only pub when it was wanted and profitable”. 

Greg Mulholland MP, President of Otley Pub Club commented: 

“Westward Care, sister company of Chartford Homes, continue to treat both the Summercross building and local people with utter contempt. They are cynically land-banking this famous pub and allowing the building to fall into disrepair, presumably so they can then seek to demolish it, despite it being in a conservation area and despite them having been forced to retain it by the Council in 2009.

“A senior officer of the planning department has since admitted to me that the decision to grant planning permission was wrong and that they were duped by the developer. So it is time Leeds City Council, who let down the local community over the Summercross, step in and stop these developers riding roughshod over the community”.

“It is also now time for Westward to admit that they have misled the planning authority and to do the decent thing and sell the pub on, hopefully to a company who will invest in it and reopen it as a pub. The Summercross pub was closed as a result of a ruthless and anti community land grab If people around the world see it on television still boarded up during the Tour de France, then it will be an advert for the greed and cynicism of Westward Care and Chartford Homes who should be ashamed of themselves and a reminder of the way the community East of Otley was let down by Leeds City Council”.

Cllr Ryk Downes,  Leeds City Councillor for Otley & Yeadon ward and a member of Otley Pub Club has said:

“I have written to the current owners of The Summercross in Otley, asking them to tidy up the area as the Tour de France will be coming past and it looks an eyesore and is not a good advert for Otley.

“If I get a response I will let you know. I also asked if they had a date for the work to the building to commence properly as it has been left derelict for a long time now.

“This is, in my opinion, a huge flaw in the planning system. Once permission has been granted as long as work has been started within a certain time then the planning permission carries on, there should be a completion date set at some point, as what we have here is that the owners simply demolished the toilets and that counted as the start if the development process, nothing more had happened and we are left with an historic building looking very dilapidated, developers should not be allowed to treat our communities like this”.

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