MEMBERS of the community are stepping up their fight to reclaim Chris Evans’ Lickfold Inn pub – but time is running out.
Nearly 100 people went to a meeting held in Lodsworth village hall last Wednesday (March 12) to discuss the ‘community right to bid’, and Steve Hansford from Chichester District Council (CDC) went to offer advice on how to make the pub an asset of community value.
Speaking at the meeting was Maria Diamond, one of the forerunners in the Save the Lickfold Campaign.
“This pub is the only asset we have in our tiny village and the clock is starting to tick.
“Surprise surprise, Chris Evans put the pub on the market at the beginning of February as soon as the community registered its interest.”
The community must now register its intention to bid on the pub with CDC by tomorrow, March 21, and if they bid, have a further four and a half months to raise the £775,000 to buy it.
The presenter and Radio 2 DJ bought the pub in 2007 for more than £1m, but closed down the 15th century gastropub in 2010 after it struggled to make a profit, blaming the effects of the credit crunch. He has now put it on the market.
It was agreed the cost of buying and renovating the pub could be around £1m.
Maria added: “The owners who had the pub previously showed it could clearly be run as a profitable business.
“There are so many good pubs around here. I’m told Mr Evans has been offered the asking price a number of times but has refused.
“The problem with the community right to bid is you need good communication with the owner.
“Although it has been empty for four years, I am amazed at how good it is inside. It is a testament to its strength and build.
“My son worked in the pub two months before it closed down and it was always packed.
“The council are partly to blame because of the running costs - the business rates are £47,000 a year.
“Even if they gave us reduced rates, it would still be £37,000 a year.”
Surgeon Professor Christopher Marks said: “The main point here is, why won’t Chris Evans listen?”
People questioned the viability of the building being turned into a house following the flooding it was subjected to over the winter and its position next to a road.
When asked who would be willing to contribute money towards buying the pub, around 30 per cent of people raised their hands.
A spokesman for Chris Evans said: “To say Mr Evans is not communicating with the community is simply not true.
“The community is aware the pub is on the market. I have been communicating with them and put them in touch with the agent.”
For the full story see this week’s Midhurst and Petworth Observer (out March 20)