It may be a new year, but it is the same old story in the long drawn-out saga of JD Wetherspoon’s plans to open a pub in Alnwick – with negotiations still ongoing and no answer about when work will start at the site.
The company was given planning permission in February 2014 to transform the derelict Corn Exchange into a food and drink premises, but progress has stalled since then.
The story even dates back longer than that, with the saga actually 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, but it has not been plain sailing since.
In September of that year, a wrangle over the use of the outdoor hours raised questions over the future of the scheme and 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 Northumberland 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.
But 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 in the 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 on Monday, when the Gazette asked for an update, the same spokesman said: “All we can say at this stage is that negotiations are ongoing.”