Friday 28th November 2014
"People don't realise until these places are gone what a big difference they make! Can we manage without another convenience store? Yes. Can we manage without the Wellington? No!"
That was New Whittington resident Dave Tagg speaking at a public meeting attended by over 200 people last night (Thursday 27th November), set up to discuss plans to turn what they say is a 'much needed' community pub into a convenience store - believed to be a Co-op.
Marston's Brewery are responsible for the day to day management of the pub - although it was recently revealed that the pub is owned by a company called NewRiver Retail.
The Wellington Hotel at New Whittington (above), has been a pub for over 150 years and never closed in all that time, say campaigners. They stress that, far from being a failing business it is a thriving 'community hub' and one which needs to remain in order maintain the lives of people and groups in the village.
A campaign set up three weeks ago has seen over 1,000 signatures on petitions - both online and in paper form - with organisers saying they have been overwhelmed by the strength of feeling in the village to the plans and the attendance at the event yesterday.
In attendance at the meeting were North East Derbyshire MP, Natascha Engel and local councillors from the Borough who all pledged their help to keep the pub as a pub, and along with practical help, all mounted vocal offers of support.
Organiser Dave Sas opened the meeting by telling the floor what the pub meant to the community. In a passionate speech, he described the pub as a "Viable business and one which helps and supports all facets of the community - not just as a pub but as a community hub." He described how the pub, "Provides hot meals to the homes of pensioners who cannot get out, hosts meetings from schools and community groups - alongside the regular local sporting teams it supports. It has close links with the church and has recently provided nearly £200 to the local school to buy play equipment for the playground."
Dave added that the pub, "Buys it's produce for the meals from surrounding shops - the village butcher and grocery stores all benefit from the business it provides - and if it gets removed, the loss of the pub will decimate the village as we know it!
"I don't want it to go - the village doesn't want it to go. We need to fight it but it will be a difficult battle!"
Listen to an interview with Dave Sas here...
Having thanked the organisers for their hard work and diligence over the last 3 weeks, Councillor David Stone added, "This is not about politics, we want to save this pub. I got drunk in here at 16 and then had to walk home to Brampton where I lived at the time!"
Councillor Paul Stone agreed saying, "We have to push the online petition, get everyone to share it and spread it around, don't just come here tonight - please get involved."
Councillor Barry Bingham spoke next, saying, "I have been part of this village since school and the dice are stacked against us - breweries are selling to different companies - but there are ways forward and we need to do what we can to keep this for the community."
MP for North East Derbyshire Natascha Engel (above), also thanked the people behind the campaign and talked of her involvement with campaigns like this in the past, "We have been involved in a couple of pubs and usually breweries pick pubs that are on the way down. This is not the case here - you are the heart of the community.
"I will work with Viky (organiser Viky Muddiman) to see how we can do something like we did at Spinkhill - that pub is now working for the local community.
"Last week in Parliament, Toby (Toby Perkins Chesterfield MP), got the tie broken between pubs and the beer they had to sell! 'People Power' is beginning to win the day!"
She then had tongue-in-cheek advice for residents, "In the run up to Christmas, drink hard and drink more here at The Wellington! I will do anything I can to help you."
Listen to an interview with Natashca Engel MP here...
The meeting was then opened to the floor, with several residents voicing their anger and concerns. Ken White gave an emotional speech in which he said, "It would be fantastic to get some momentum rolling. I've been coming here since I was 14 - though I'm not sure I should have said that - everyone relies on it! We all enjoy a good time here and I'm emotional about it as that's how I feel about it. Let's give Viky as much help as we can."
Listen to an interview with Ken White here...
John Hewitt, also a resident of the village, added, "I don't see the point of another convenience store. I didn't realise how much this pub does for the community!"
Finally Dawn Probert from the Bookmakers next door to The Wellington spoke and said, "This is an excellent community pub and it's good for the children. It's about bringing them out for meals and family time - they see pubs aren't just about alocohol."
Dave Tagg runs the local bowls club who no longer have a pitch in New Whittington but meet regularly at the pub and he told the room that he had experience of the community in action - pulling together to try to save the bowling green. Ultimately, he said, "It failed - but everyone was accommodating. People don't realise until these places die what a loss they are!"
A spokesman for NewRiver Retail said, "We wanted to ensure that the licensee of The Wellington was given as much notice as possible about the future of the pub, long before we submitted any planning application. We are also working with Marston's who are responsible for the operational management. We will also be notifying the local community in due course about our intended plans for a new convenience store - and these will be subject to the normal planning decision-making process where local people can express their views."
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