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Campaign to save Royal Oak pub in Frindsbury from bulldozers gathers pace

By Lynn Cox

People turned out in force for a public meeting aimed at saving a 300-year-old pub from the bulldozers.

More than 150 people added their weight against a developer’s plan to pull down the Royal Oak in Cooling Road, Frindsbury, and build six houses in its place.

Lead campaigner Joe O’Donnell said he was overwhelmed with the show of support at the pub on Wednesday night.

The pub in Cooling Road
The pub in Cooling Road

Mr O’Donnell, 32, who lives in Cooling Road, wants to get the pub listed as a historic building.

He said: “It demonstrated the biggest show of community spirit I have ever seen. Not just from people who use the pub but from people who have moved out of the area and still have find memories of it.

“We shared our stories together and also talked about taking it over as a community pub. The turnout has certainly encouraged me and made me more determined.”

A petition started by Mr O’Donnell calls on Medway Council to issue a building preservation notice and has already been signed by 1,084 people.

Joe O'Donnell wants to save the pub
Joe O'Donnell wants to save the pub

However, it is understood because of extensive alterations carried out over the years, it may not qualify for listed status.

Agent Nicholas Taylor and Associates, acting on behalf of a developer, has written to people in the area informing them of the plans to replace the 18th century building with a terrace of six homes.

The letter stated Medway Council’s initial response had been very positive towards their plans.

The pub, which dates back to the 1700s, closed in September last year when it was sold by Enterprise Inns.

An old photograph of the pub in its heyday
An old photograph of the pub in its heyday

The Royal Oak is one of just four pre-Victorian buildings remaining on the street and has been there since the days Frindsbury was a separate rural village.

Frindsbury was heavily involved in chalk mining and in 1895 a former landlord of the Royal Oak, William Sayer, was killed when ten tons of earth collapse on him while working in a chalk pit in the area.

Mr O’Donnell said: “It is a great pub which has been at the heart of the community for hundreds of years. This historic building deserves better than demolition. I think some of it might date back to the 1600s.”

Parish councillors David Coomber, John Williams and Peter Martin look at plans
Parish councillors David Coomber, John Williams and Peter Martin look at plans

As the building is unlisted and not in a conservation area, no planning permission is needed to pull it down. Permission is only needed to build the houses.

He added: “Medway Council must back our call for a building preservation notice or its commitment to our heritage will be in doubt.

A Medway Council spokesman said: “The council is aware that developers are interested in developing the site but no planning application has as yet been received.”

To sign the petition, visit www.change.org and search Frindsbury

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