Councillors voice their fears over ‘mystery’ pub proposal

A shot of Blockbuster and Jade take-away next door in Abbey End. 'A planning application is in. 'MHLC-22-01-14  Blockbuster Jan41
A shot of Blockbuster and Jade take-away next door in Abbey End. 'A planning application is in. 'MHLC-22-01-14 Blockbuster Jan41

Councillors have objected to plans for Abbey End shops to be transformed into a pub over fears for the future of town centre retail.

The application seeks to combine the two into one unit with new fronting and a ground floor rear extension.

Planning chair, Cllr George Illingworth (Con, Abbey) said concern was raised by members that if approved, the application would bring an unwelcome step away from retail in the town centre.

Also that there would be insufficient space behind the building for loading and storage and the impact it would have on those living in the flats above the site.

“We object to this on several grounds, most notably that we do not want to lose retail space in the town centre,” he said.

“Lots of people do not want to lose shops in the town and this is a big thing if we grant this change of use.

“There is still no idea who is behind the application but regardless of the company, we are not happy about it.”

The objection will now go to Warwick District Council planners who will decide on the application over the next few months. It is not yet known which company -if any- is behind the application but many have put the move down to the Wetherspoon pub chain after it confirmed it had identified a location in Kenilworth.

A spokesman for JD Wetherspoon told the KWN that a town location is currently being negotiated.

Spokesperson Eddie Gershon said: “Wetherspoon has identified a site in Kenilworth and is in negotiations. But, at this very early stage, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

However the low price chain was always rumoured to be looking at the current Town and Country Furniture site over the road which was given planning permission for change of use into a drinking establishment.

If the pub chain does come to Kenilworth anticipation is high for the jobs and trade it would bring.

Eagerly waiting for more news on the possible new business, Richard Hales, chair of the chamber of trade, welcomed any trade which would fill empty units and bring people into the town centre.

“Whatever this pub or bar is, it will do wonders by filling another unit and getting people out,” he said.

Kenilworth’s town centre suffered a hit over the past year with closures including Kenilworth Wines, Crash Bang Wallop, Co-op Electrix, Camerama and Paul’s Hair Studio all leading to a sharp rise in empty shop units.

Card Factory is due to open in Warwick Road this month to reduce the number of empty units.

The former Job Centre at Abbey End was taken over by the Tree House Bookshop last year in moves which were welcomed as bringing the town centre back up to capacity in terms of retail units.