The long-running saga of JD Wetherspoon’s plans to open a pub in Alnwick continues to rumble on.
The company has said that it is waiting to have a contract from Northumberland County Council which it can sign to move ahead with the development at the derelict Corn Exchange.
Meanwhile, the local authority claims that everything is in place and is waiting for Wetherspoon to progress the project.
The issue is the latest chapter in what is becoming a drawn-out story.
The company was given planning permission in February 2014 to transform the Corn Exchange into a food and drink premises, but progress has stalled since then.
In fact, the story dates back longer than this, with the saga starting in 2012, when the firm submitted a scheme for the grade II-listed building.
Things were then delayed when the pub giant decided to amend the plans, leading to a revised scheme, which was lodged in August 2013.
Finally, in the winter of 2014, Wetherspoon was granted permission to transform the venue, but it has not been plain sailing since.
In September of that year, a wrangle over the hours of use of the outdoor area raised questions over the scheme’s future.
Then, at the start of 2015, the company called time on its plans after becoming ‘frustrated’ with the way its application was being handled by the county council.
A major grievance revolved around Wetherspoon placing a glass and bin storage area in Roxburgh Place car park, behind the Corn Exchange, in return for resurfacing and marking the car park.
The company claimed that the county council’s highways department opposed this, but no formal decision had been forthcoming. Without a resolution, the firm said at the time that it must terminate its interest in the building, which has stood empty for more than two decades.
It prompted the authority to pledge crunch talks with Wetherspoon and last summer we reported that progress was being made over these issues, but there was still work to do, including dealing with a number of transfers of land ownership.
In October, a Wetherspoon spokesman said that the company was continuing to work with the council on the matter and at the start of 2016, the firm said that negotiations were ongoing.
Now, the Gazette has received an update from both parties.
A Wetherspoon spokesman said: “When we have a contract from the council which we can sign, we will feel more positive about the pub plans.”
But a county council spokeswoman said: “From the council’s point of view, everything is in place in order for the development to progress. We are happy to proceed with the necessary land transfers and can go ahead when Wetherspoon’s are ready to progress this.”
Simon Haggie, of Knight Frank, is the agent for site owner Kevin Thompson. Giving his views on the situation, he said: “We have agreed most of the legal issues with the county council and it is now a matter for the respective lawyers to draw up the legal agreements so that the planning permission can be implemented. With three sets of legal teams involved, this is likely to take a number of weeks to conclude, so nothing will happen very quickly.”
Wetherspoon says that it would be investing more than £2million in the Corn Exchange and that the development would create approximately 40 to 50 jobs. In 2013, a Gazette poll showed that 72 per cent of voters were in favour of the scheme.