Demolition looms for pub in backstreets of St Albans

PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 May 2015

King Offa pub, St Albans

King Offa pub, St Albans

Archant

Bulldozing a city pub to make way for affordable housing could “tear the heart out of the local community”, a resident has warned.

Nick Bell is among a number of punters who have hit out at the district council’s plans to buy the lease of The King Offa in Wallingford Walk, St Albans, and return it to full council ownership in June.

That would see the premises no longer act as a licensed pub and eventually demolished to make way for housing.

Nick, who lived in the Cottonmill area of the city as a teenager and worked behind the bar from the ages of 18 and 20, has expressed his disgust at the announcement.

He said: “Removing it tears the heart out of the local community and leaves quite literally nowhere for the current locals as a viable alternative.

“It is not just a drinking place, it is a meeting place and it has acted as a family venue for events such as Christmas, weddings, christenings, funerals and birthdays for years - uniting people and increasing the mood and sense of community in the area.

“This pub closing has been described as like a death of a family member, as without this venue many people lose their entire connection to the local community and will no longer have a place where in which they can feel at home.”

He went on: “These are not just the angry words of someone with a bee in his bonnet but I have spoken to 30 or 40 local people since the bombshell dropped who feel the same way.

“A lot of the local residents are old and it is a lifeline for them; without the pub they have no other social outlet and we have genuine fear for some of the more senior members.”

Addressing whether using the site for affordable housing was a good idea Nick, whose sister has worked as a barmaid at the pub for the last five years, said: “I don’t think any shortage is going to be solved by this small venue especially when there is a huge housing project underway between Shenley and London Colney and other developments.

“The other thing is using somewhere that doesn’t take away a fundamentally important amenity that serves the local community.”

He added that staff at the pub only found out about the council’s intentions to tear the pub down when they applied for a renewal of the licence.

He also questioned rumours that the pub could be left vacant for two years before work gets underway.

He said: “To see it sitting empty and effectively rotting away would be rubbing salt into the wounds for locals, while a 12 month extension would give us the opportunity to source an alternative location.”

Cllr Brian Ellis, the council’s housing portfolio holder, confirmed the decision made at a cabinet meeting on Thursday March 19, is part “of a wider scheme to invest in Sopwell”.

To find out more about an online petition to save the pub, visit: www.change.org/p/st-albans-council-do-not-close-the-king-offa-public-house.


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