Bleak future for this village pub?

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A POPULAR village pub could be turned into housing after a disaster-hit six years.

The Royal Oak, in Oakley, has suffered fire, bankruptcy and mismanagement in a forlorn period which has left the building empty since August 2009.

Vale Brewery, which owns the once popular watering hole, has been accused of pricing it too high to deter buyers, in order to convert it into housing.

The firm denies the charges, and said it has ploughed more than £90,000 into the business in six years in a bid to salvage what it says is an unviable business.

When it bought the pub in 2003 the Brill-based brewery said it intended to turn it around but now it wants to convert the building into housing.

It was placed on the market in August 2009 but withdrawn in March 2010 after only two formal viewings and no offers.

Critics say the brewery’s asking price of £495,000, and leasehold of £30,000, is far too high and is partly the reason there have been no offers.

In a meeting of the Aylesbury Vale District Council development and control committee last Thursday, councillor for Oakley, Michael Rand, criticised the brewery’s plans.

“This is a pub that has been in business for several hundred years. We should refuse this to reassure the people of Oakley that it was marketed at a price which was suitable. If it failed we would know it was not viable. But not when they are asking for such a high price.”

Despite this the council’s valuation officer, in a report to planning bosses, said the asking price was “realistic, if one of the larger breweries were likely to bid”.

A report by Jake Collinge, the agent working on behalf of the brewery, noted the pub’s turbulent recent history. The brewery’s first tenant, who was a well respected and experienced landlord, walked away in June 2004 after losses of £6,000 and a bar fire pushed him close to bankruptcy.

The brewery then spent a further £50,000 repairing and refurbishing and new tenants took up the lease in November 2004. They invested a further £50,000 of their own money but after recording losses of £27,000 in the first year left without notice, gutting the building and stripping it out.

New landlords tried to aim the pub at a younger market but it became a haven for unsociable activity and was still losing more than £1,000 a week. Eventually the publicans defaulted on payments and went bankrupt.

The decision will be decided by the planning inspectorate at a later date.