Downham Market Pubwatch chairman urges review of Wetherspoon plans for town site

Ann Cameron Smith Chairman of Downham Pubwatch and Landlady at the Cock Tavern ANL-151122-104726009
Ann Cameron Smith Chairman of Downham Pubwatch and Landlady at the Cock Tavern ANL-151122-104726009
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A proposed £1.3 million expansion of a Downham pub will disrupt the town centre and could strain relationships between licensees and local people, a landlady has warned.

Ann Cameron Smith, chairman of the town’s Pubwatch group, has spoken out against JD Wetherspoon’s plans for the White Hart in Bridge Street.

The company yesterday rejected concerns about its plans for the site, which were given planning permission by West Norfolk Council earlier this month.

But Miss Cameron Smith, who runs the Cock Tavern in Lynn Road, says she is “appalled” by the decision for the scheme, which means the venue could accommodate up to 600 customers at a time.

She is worried about the impact on neighbouring residents, the lack of nearby parking and a lack of space for deliveries which means vehicles could block the road on a daily basis while supplying the site.

She said: “The disruption is going to be astronomical, which people are just starting to realise.”

Miss Cameron Smith, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the pub trade in Downham, insisted that the vast majority of landlords were not worried by the prospect of greater competition from the pub chain.

But she said they were concerned about the knock-on effects of the development both on neighbouring residents and the area as a whole.

She said: “Success in our business is to keep everyone happy, our customers to enjoy themselves, feel free and relaxed enough to socialise both indoors and out to laugh, chat and unwind from the stresses of daily life.

“Bad feeling produces an atmosphere which spreads rapidly and affects everyone.”

She also questioned whether sufficient trade would be attracted to the White Hart to justify the Wetherspoon plans, particularly given the limitations on parking nearby.

She believes other existing sites in the town, or even an entirely new development, would be more suitable.

And she told Wetherspoon: “Keep looking for a better site.

“I hope you find one that suits your image and requirements better and provides all the criteria for the needs of this small town and to give you the opportunity and the space for expansion and success. We will welcome you.

“There is a time and a place for everything, But the White Hart site is not the right place.”

A Wetherspoon spokesman said yesterday: “The lady is entitled to her opinion, but Wetherspoon is keen to open a pub in Downham Market.

“Everything is transparent and planning permission has been granted. There is no reason whatsoever to think that the development will cause any problems.

“It’s important she knows Wetherspoon are members of Pubwatch in the respective towns in which it operates and has an extremely good track record for the safe running of its pubs.”