Published: 00:01, 21 March 2016
One man’s crusade to save his local pub from the bulldozers is gathering momentum.
Developers want to demolish the historic Royal Oak, an old coach house in Frindsbury which could date back to the 1600s, to make way for six houses.
But they have found a formidable opponent in conservationist Joe O’Donnell.
He has carried out comprehensive research on the history of the pub in Cooling Road.
In a report to Historic England, he said one theory was that the pub was named after HMS Royal Oak which was sunk at the Battle of Medway at Upnor in the Dutch raid in 1664.
He said: “I have been told by multiple local people that one of the beams in the pub is from the ship.
"This is conceivable since there were a number of shipbuilding yards in Frindsbury which could have broken up the remains for re-use after salvage from the Medway.”
But within a week of the plans being announced, Mr O’Donnell, 32, who lives in the same road, had collected a 1,000 signature petition calling for the development to be stopped.
Residents are calling for a building preservation notice to be slapped on the timber-framed building which is not listed and not in a conservation area.
Such has been the strength of Mr O’Donnell’s campaign that Medway Council planners appear to have had a rethink about the future of the site.
A council spokesman said: “We haven’t served a building preservation notice ourselves, but have formally asked Historic England to consider the merits of the building as to whether it is worth listing.”
Mr O’Donnell said: This is good news. I am very happy to hear Medway Council is supporting the application to get the building listed.
“Fingers crossed that Historic England will also support this as well as they have agreed to consider the matter soon.”
Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who has been a customer at the pub, has lent her support. She said: “It is important because it is one of the last remaining coach houses in the area.
“It is also an asset to the community.
“It might be slightly different if it was going to be converted into flats, but it would be wrong to demolish it altogether.”
The pub closed in September last year when it was sold by Enterprise Inns.
A formal planning application has yet to be submitted.