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Pub campaigners prepare for fresh battle to stop housing on site of historic pub in Cooling Road, Strood

By Nicola Jordan

An historic pub previously saved from the bulldozers could still be turned into housing after revised plans were submitted.

The Royal Oak in Frindsbury was at the centre of a campaign spearheaded by Strood resident Joe O’Donnell, who wanted to see the 17th century building retained for the community.

Mr O’Donnell launched a petition against proposed housing plans, which attracted 1,000 signatures, and was delighted when Medway Council placed a community order on the building in Cooling Road.

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

The pub, which campaigners say contains part of a historic ship, was listed as an asset of community value by the authority, and immediately plans were withdrawn for it to be demolished and the pub was put up for sale.

Mr O’Donnell, 32, also went a step further and managed to get the building Grade II listed status and set up a community group to raise £450,000 to buy it back from developers.

In November, The Save the Royal Oak campaign was given six months to raise the cash to buy the pub, but now developers have revised their plans to see the main part of the building retained and restored, and houses built around it.

The pub in Cooling Road
The pub in Cooling Road

The pub is thought to contain a timber from HMS Royal Oak, sunk by the Dutch in 1664 at Upnor.

Now the developer, Interesting Developments Ltd, has submitted revised plans to restore the main part of the building, knock down its wing extensions on the ground floor and turn it into a four-bedroom home and build a terrace of three two-bedroom homes on the rest of the land.

Mr O’Donnell said: “This application is a real test of how seriously Medway Council takes protecting assets of community value and listed buildings.

Campaigners outside The Royal Oak in Cooling Road, Frindsbury
Campaigners outside The Royal Oak in Cooling Road, Frindsbury

“I hope that they will commit to deciding it at a full planning committee rather than behind closed doors by the planning department.

“These plans will see the listed pub partially demolished and new houses cramped round but give no detail of how the conversion will protect the beams from HMS Royal Oak or other historical features.

“The campaign has had several people approach it looking to reopen the pub, but reopening has no chance while the developer wants over £500,000 plus VAT for a site he paid half that for.

“It is very important that as many people as possible object so that these plans are rejected and the developer will consider selling to the community at a reasonable price.”

So far six people living in the area have objected to the proposals on the council’s website, with one person supporting it.

Any other objections can be lodged on the website until Monday, February 20.

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