We at the Bedwyn Pub Company are very aware that we have not provided much information about our progress recently, due mainly to the fact that the current owners have failed to communicate with us. However, we continue to try to persuade them to enter into discussion with us over the future of the premises.
Briefly, these are some of the key points since September last year.
20th September 2017. We made an appointment to view through Winkworth Estate Agents, but the owners refused to show us the property.
3rd October 2017. Having obtained a valuation for the property, we wrote (recorded delivery), to the owner, offering to purchase the site for £400000 subject to survey, we received no reply.
12th January 2018. As result of statements by the owner that building could never be a Public House again, we undertook a Pre Planning report with Wiltshire Council Planners. This basically asks, should a formal application be made, what would the likely outcome be? They concluded that they saw no reason why the Cross Keys could not become a pub again.
9th May 2018. We again wrote to the owner, (recorded delivery). We urged him to agree to a meeting to discuss options. We explained the high level of support in the village, we offered to fund an independent valuation and we offered to discuss a ‘windfall’ payment, if the pub were eventually sold by us for development.
13th June 2018. having received no reply to the letter of 9th May, we resent it, and have again received no reply.
11th July 2018. The owners submitted a planning application to include a second pedestrian access into Farm Lane, it will be alongside the existing one, and will create a path through where the toilets were. This current action, may be be linked to the splitting of the property into two parts, the first being the front two story part, which is currently on the market with a guide price of £450000, the other being the rear part which was the brewhouse, and includes the outbuildings and garden area, this rear part is owned by Mr and Mrs McIvor, whereas the front property is owned by Portella Ltd, a company controlled by Mr and Mrs McIvor. It is not known what they intend to do with this rear part.
We will continue to work towards our objective, and would welcome your comments and suggestions.
The Directors, The Bedwyn Pub Company Ltd
In the November edition of Parish News, a letter from Mr Ian McIvor stated that the former Cross Keys pub could never be a pub again. We have consulted with Mr Nick Clark, at Wiltshire Planning Dept, who stated “ I have no difficulty in concluding the change of use proposed would be in accordance with the development plan. In the event of a planning application being submitted I see no reason for it to be capable of officer support”.
The complete report may be seen below.
At the moment, there seems to be a lot of activity around 16 High Street, the former site of the Cross Keys pub. According to one local newspaper article, the site has been sold to an outside bidder who will run financial services from the premises. According to another it is to be converted into a café or bistro. According to a letter printed in the local Parish News by the owner Mr. McIvor in December last year the Bedwyn Pub Company are presenting a “false and misleading prospectus” and “there is no prospect of [16 High Street] ever being reused as a public house”.
Sometimes it seems hard to keep up with the flurry of rumours surrounding the site, and indeed that may well be part of the point. But while we may not be responding to every single rumour as it appears, please rest assured that The Bedwyn Pub Company is still working away in the background and we have not deviated from our stated goal of restoring the Cross Keys community pub to the heart of the village.
Our understanding of events is as follows.
Mr. McIvor purchased the pub from Punch Partnerships via his company Portella Ltd in April 2014 for £424,998. A young inexperienced tenant was installed by the owner and contracted the purchase of beer to be through Mr. McIvor. This tenant failed to make the business work and the pub closed in November 2016. Portella Ltd at this time placed the pub on the market at £475K, later raising this to a somewhat eye watering £550K asking price We are aware of at least two offers being made to purchase the premises at a price more in line with going market rates, but these were either not acknowledged or rejected. In the autumn of 2017 Winkworths in Marlborough placed the front part of the building part seeking offers in excess of £595K Today it is marketed by Doorsteps.co.uk and features on the rightmove web site for offers in excess of £495K .
On the 3rd November 2016 Portella Ltd made an enquiry to Wiltshire Council asking if a nomination had been made to list the Property as an Asset of Community Value. At that time no such application had been made by the Parish Council so after the required 56 days, on 3rd January 2017 Portella Ltd informed the Council that the building had been changed from a Class A4 (Drinking Establishment) to a Class A2 (Financial & Professional Services) Shortly thereafter on 17th February 2017 the Parish Council did make an application that the building be listed as an Asset of Community Value on the basis that it met the requirements for the Localism Act of 2011. This application was contested by Mr. McIvor in a letter dated 21st March 2017 on the basis that it fell outside the allotted time window, and that the premises were now occupied by H&A Brock Art Consultants. (This appears to be another company that lists Mr. McIvor as a director)
In the following months, the front of the building was repainted, and renamed as The Art House, while H&A Brock’s art consultancy activities at the site could perhaps most generously be described as minimal.
Mr. McIvor then split the property in two, with the front part of the old pub remaining 16 High Street, while the back room, outbuildings and beer garden were renamed 39 Farm Lane. On 31st July 2017, Portella Ltd then sold the back of the premises (listed as Part of 16 High Street, Great Bedwyn on the Land Registry Transfer documents) to Mr & Mrs. McIvor for the sum of £100,000. In effect Mr. McIvor sold part of the premises to himself, but more importantly in the sale, he gave himself a restrictive covenant “not to use the retained land for any illegal or immoral purpose, nor as a public house, wine bar or other drinking establishment; nor as a restaurant or café” This presumably is the source of Mr. McIvor’s assertion in his letter to the Parish News, that there is no prospect of there ever being a pub again, but it seems clear that this restriction exists only because Mr. McIvor chose to put it there.
The front of the pub has since been offered up for sale under “residential – town house” (although we believe it remains a commercial A2 premises). The Bedwyn Pub Company (which now has over 200 commitments from the community in support of a pub) also made a fully funded offer to repurchase the entire premises. This offer was sent via recorded delivery and was received, although to date we have had no response in regard to this. At the point that our campaign became more high profile, on 12th December 2017, Portella Ltd also chose to sell another restrictive covenant to the neighbouring property of 15 High Street, Great Bedwyn stating that “the owner shall not use or permit to be used the Property for a public house, wine bar or any other drinking establishment within Use Class A4.” An informal response to our enquiry to Wiltshire planning regarding converting the property back to A4 use stated that this would be in line with Wiltshire’s Development Plan, but clearly the issue of these covenants would have to be resolved in order to proceed.
The premises is now listed as “under offer”. This has occurred in the last 72 hours, so we are working to ascertain the exact nature of this latest development
At the same time, Mr. McIvor has also made an application for pre-planning approval to change the property from class A2 to class A3 in order to sell to a potential purchase who wants to open a daytime tearoom/evening bistro at the premises.
This planning application can be found here.
Disregarding the impact to our aspiration to return a pub to this site, we feel that such an endeavour would almost certainly fail as it would be competing with Cobbs Farm Shop in Froxfield, the café at Crofton, Polly’s tea rooms in Marlborough, but most importantly have a detrimental effect on both the local Post Office/Bakery and The Three Tuns and ultimately to the village as a whole. Such a failure would allow Mr. McIvor to claim that all categories of business at that location A4, A2 and A3 were failures. The Bedwyn Pub Company maintain the belief that a freehold pub, not tied to any brewery could be both a financial success and more importantly a vital lynch pin in maintaining a sense of community in our village and encouraging tourists to visit the area.
It is difficult to interpret all of these actions as anything other than a long term plan to make an application for a change of use from commercial to residential use and the financial rewards that would result. From a completely pragmatic point of view, maximising return on investment makes good business sense. However, we do feel that the loss of The Cross Keys is having a hugely detrimental effect on our village and our community, and feel obliged to try and prevent such a loss. Mr. McIvor may take umbrage that our aspirations appear so diametrically opposed to his own, but we continue to believe that some accommodation can be reached to the mutual satisfaction of all parties, and would welcome any opportunity to engage with Mr. McIvor to progress on this basis.
In the meantime, we would like to thank the many people who have already registered their support of our endeavours thus far and encourage those of you who have not yet registered to consider doing so, again stressing that there is no financial commitment required at this point, nor any obligation to make one in the future.