Bid to turn 'under-used' Iffley pub into a home

The Chester Arms

The Chester Arms

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

A FORMER landlord of an Oxford pub has claimed a lack of interest from the community contributed to its demise.

The Chester Arms in Chester Street, Iffley Fields, closed down in July and owner Punch Taverns sold it to Woodchester Estates for a reported £390,000.

Now the new owners are hoping to turn the pub into a house, claiming the Chester Arms is not viable.

A planning application has been submitted to Oxford City Council and Philip Johnson, a former landlord, wrote a letter supporting the change of use.

He said: “Before I became involved in the running of the Chester Arms I was a resident of the Iffley Fields area for over 15 years. I also have 10 years of experience in the trade.

“Despite significant and continuous investment and effort over the last eight years the Chester Arms is not a viable business as it stands. The Chester is not positioned to attract passing trade and that is why previous landlords and ourselves recognised the need for and tried to attract local support. Although I would put the failure of the pub down to a number of different reasons, I believe the main one is that the vast majority of people in the local community are not pub people.”

He went on to say that he would not recommend to anyone taking on the pub.

But Warwick Street resident Ted Colman said previous landlords had shown the pub could be run successfully.

He said: “When the pub was doing well plenty of people came from a mile or more away.

“Yes, there have been a few occasions when music went on a little bit late and attracted complaints, but to the best of my knowledge these problems were always resolved amicably.

“The pub has never been less viable than under Woodchester’s ownership.”

Last month, the Oxford Mail reported that 50 pubs in Oxfordshire have called last orders in the past five years. Campaigners blamed beer tax rises and supermarkets selling cheap alcohol for choking the trade. Tony Goulding, of Oxford Camra, said: “Times are hard, particularly for back-street boozers like the Chester Arms. You have got to either use them or lose them.”

It is understood Woodchester had met residents to look into the possibility of revamping the pub and keeping it open.

But spokesman Nick Evamy said a “comprehensive review” had been carried out which found the pub to be no longer viable. He said: “Given the non-viability of the pub we hope that local residents will support this proposal which safeguards the fabric of the building and strengthens the residential character of the area.”

Punch Taverns refused to comment.

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