CONCERNS have been raised the “jewel” of Hadleigh is being left to rack and ruin after being boarded up for more than two years.
The historic Crown pub, in High Street, has been sealed off since 2011 when Castle Point Council leased some of the land to supermarket giant Morrisons during construction of its store in London Road.
The pub, a landmark in the town since around 1749, is earmarked for redevelopment as part of the £60million Hadleigh masterplan.
However, nearly three years on, the pub’s fate is still unknown.
Worried residents fear the beloved building could fall to the same fate as nearby Hadleigh Hall, which is now derelict.
David Hurrell, of Willow Walk, Hadleigh, said: “The council has promoted the pub as the jewel in Hadleigh’s crown, but now it is becoming an embarrassment.
“Apparently, the pub has already been damaged by metal thieves and I am very concerned it is up for the chop, especially as it was missed off the Local Plan.
“It is the third oldest building in Hadleigh and should remain.”
An arthouse cinema, family friendly pub, community venue or a new home for Hadleigh Library are some of the suggestions which have been put forward for the site.
Alan Hockett, an artist based at nearby Hadleigh Old Fire Station, said: “It would be a real shame if the Crown wasn’t saved, especially as we have so few historic landmarks left in Hadleigh.
“Leaving a building boarded up, without electricity and heating, it will just get run down.
They need to decide what to do with it. I would love to see it become a cinema, but we cannot just keep the building for the sake of it. Something needs to be done either way.”
Conservative councillor Norman Smith insisted exciting things were in store for the site.
The council’s regeneration partnership is preparing to advertise a design brief for the central island in the coming weeks, to attract potential investors.
Mr Smith, councillor responsible for economic growth, said: “It has taken awhile because the land was in lots of different ownership, sowe needed everyone on board. I fully understand people’s concerns, but it’s been boarded up to keep it secure and, let’s face it, the pub has been around for many many years, so two years in its history is not long.
“We are preparing a planning brief to put out to the market very soon, inviting ideas from developers. It is a big site and is a great opportunity. It’s an exciting time, the economy is changing and, hopefully, we will get back some interesting proposals.
“Some of these ideas may be to retain the Crown and open it to the public, but some might not include the pub. It is up to the council to decide what would be in the best interests for the community.”
Punch Taverns closed the Crown in 2009 and sold the site to developer MCC Developments for £400,000. In March 2011, the council bought the site for an undisclosed fee.
Mr Smith is standing in May’s elections for Boyce ward, alongside Robert Baillie for Ukip and Tony Wright for Labour.
Chief executive David Marchant said the council had boarded up the site to make sure it did not become derelict.
He said: “There is no “new design” for Hadleigh – the Master Plan is still current, although not formally agreed by the council.
“The Castle Point Regeneration Partnership – which includes Essex County Council and Homes and Communities Agency – is to promote a comprehensive redevelopment of the whole island site for mixed land uses, which stretches from the fire station to the Crown “The condition of the Crown is poor.
“We have secured the site to make sure it does not deteriorate further.
“Both Hadleigh Hall and the Crown were last used by the private sector, not the council.
“The New Local Plan does not recommend that the Crown building is of sufficient merit to warrant either statutory or local listing as a building of merit for the reasons given in the report."