A group of residents have launched a last-ditch effort to halt an historic town pub being transformed into a home.
Proposals to turn the Saracens Head in Deal into a family home have drawn a number of objections from residents – with developers insisting that the pub is unviable as a business.
The inn on Alfred Square closed in March when husband and wife duo Matthew and Martine Brett stepped away from the bar just 13 months after taking over.
Six months on from the closure, the new owner of the building – East Kent Developments – who bought the property in June submitted plans to turn the former boozer dating back to the Georgian period into a four-bedroom house.
Within the documents, applicant Peter Hadley states the plans “would see the demolition of the existing single-storey toilet extension to the rear of the building”.
Furthermore, Mr Hadley confirms the conversion works would only “take a very light touch to the existing building in order to retain its heritage significance and original character.”
He also mentions a “significant demand for three- and four-bedroom homes” in the local plan, adding: “There can be no objection to the conversion of the existing building to provide a family-sized dwelling and there is a defined need for three and four bedroom dwellings within the District.
“There can therefore be no objection in principle to the provision of a family home in this location.”
Since the plans emerged, more than 50 objections have been lodged and a community ‘Save the Saracens’ group has been established with the aim of raising enough money to purchase the building back from East Kent Developments and run it as a community pub.
In a letter formally objecting to the plans, group spokesman Ian Haigh said: “[The pub] was much loved and frequented by locals on Alfred Square, College Road, Golf Road, Sandown Road, and the surrounding area, so much so they got together and listed it as an Asset of Community Value in 2016.
“Most residents on Alfred Square were regulars, including those directly next door, and the pub had a great community feel… if this pub were lost, this part of the community will be a much poorer place for it.”
The decision to leave the pub from Mr and Mrs Brett led to the brewery which owned the building to put the pub on the market with an asking price of £425,000.
The couple said they had done “nothing but lose money” since February last year, blaming the cost-of-living crisis and a lack of community support.
The message is repeated in planning documents, which added: “It is therefore clear from this evidence that various attempts have been made to make the Public House a viable business in this location but have failed.
“The Public House is no longer on the Council’s list of Assets of Community Value with the 2016 decision now expired (with properties kept on the list for 5 years). The Public House remains vacant.”
Following on from the group comment in a letter of his own, Mr Haigh – who lives on Albert Square – added that suggestions that the business was unviable were “nonsense”.
“The Saracens is in a great location, it's a perfect size for an independent - manageable but with a decent amount of covers - and there is scope to expand the food offer. As a free house run by someone with experience, this local business would thrive,” he explained.
“We all live here because we like living here. We like the high street, the shops, the life, the community – and we like the pubs. There are pros and cons of living just off a high street, but this is what gives the area a sense of place.
“The traditional pubs have such a huge effect on the Conservation Area, precisely because they are pubs. Not because they are houses that used to be pubs. They are a key heritage asset and should be preserved in use.”
In a letter on Dover District Council’s planning portal, Deal Town Council also objected to the plans, labeling them as “premature” and calling for the community group to be allowed time to raise enough money to purchase the property.
Peter Large added that a large amount of work to strip the building of its pub heritage appeared to already have taken place.
“A considerable amount of work appears to have already been carried out on the property, including the removal of most of the external features that denote the building as a public house,” he explained.
“Therefore, is this genuinely a first-instance planning application or is it, in reality, a retrospective planning application?
“The Council should carry out an inspection of the property to determine the extent of the work already carried out and whether the application should be re-classed as a retrospective planning application.”