We have been asked to post the following by Steve Green:
I’m sending this email to various people who might be interested to know that Hawthorn Leisure who recently purchased 275 pubs from Greene King (including Cross Keys and Saxton Arms in Abingdon) have now applied for planning permission to convert the Cross Keys into flats!
Reference: P14/V1476/FUL Click here for link
I haven’t compared the plans directly, but they look similar to the plans GK had put in this Spring before they withdrew the application when selling the pub. It is completely residential with nothing left of the pub.
The worry is whether Hawthorn Leisure are really just a property development company pretending to be a new pub company, and that we will see the same fate for the Saxton Arms.
The press release during the acquisition from Greene King had a quote from Hawthorn’s CEO Gerry Carroll, saying “Hawthorn Leisure’s strategy of supporting and investing in its tenants provides a fantastic opportunity for these pubs. Our experienced team is fully committed to working in close partnership with the tenants of both the R&L and Greene King pubs and we are delighted to welcome them all to Hawthorn Leisure.”
The landlord of the Keys (who previously managed the Harp/Plough in Stert Street which closed at the start of the year) seemed very positive about the future of the Cross Keys following the sale which broke the tie with Greene King, so this new planning permission is quite unexpected. Converting the pub into flats is the exact opposite of supporting and investing in its tenants!
It is thought that the Cross Keys pub has existed on the site since the late 1600’s… and was later sold to Morrells Brewing Company from Oxford in 1874. Morrells brewery closed in 1998 and all its pubs were acquired by Greene King in 2002.
Ock Street has now lost most of its character with mainly ugly flats and modern buildings on the Southern Side all the way from Drayton Road down to Knights, whilst the Northern side is a depressing reminder of how vibrant the street may have been in the past before all the pubs were closed and converted into housing. Without the Keys, this will leave only the Brewery Tap and White Horse pubs on Ock Street. I can also foresee this affecting Abingdon Traditions such as the election of the Mayor of Ock Street which has been going on since 1700, as there is now little community spirit left in Ock Street and it is pointless processing up and down the street past modern characterless flats without pubs or interesting historic locations to stop and dance at.
– Steven Green