Villagers keep up their fight to save pub from closure

PUB regulars are keeping up their fight to stop last orders being called on their local.

Campaigners are determined to thwart an attempt to turn the Victoria and Albert in Seaton Delaval into a Tesco Express.

They say it is a vital part of their community as it also supplies meals to the elderly.

Licensee Terry Borley took over the Seaton Terrace pub 12 weeks ago on a year’s lease, and he works with employee Marshall Dunn to deliver about 50 lunches to elderly people as the village is no longer covered by a meals-on-wheels service.

The pub is also used by groups as a meeting venue and frequently hosts wedding parties and wakes.

Planning officers told county councillors they were almost powerless to stop Tesco taking over because of a 17-year-old law allowing pubs to be converted into shops without seeking consent for change of use, however.

That did not stop the county council’s south east area planning committee voting unanimously to visit the site on Tuesday, February 14, before making a decision on the application.

The application was put on hold until then due to concerns over hazards posed by traffic coming around a blind bend on the main road between Seaton Delaval and Holywell.

Tom Brechany, ward councillor for Cramlington South East, called for the site visit, saying that for the last 25 years he had driven past and parked there daily and the traffic is absolutely horrendous.

Neighbour Stephen Keir has raised a 2,420-name petition objecting to the closure of the pub.

He told the committee: “I was badly injured last year on that exact stretch of road. There are five junctions within 50 metres of the premises.”

In a letter of objection, he wrote: “The Vic is our community pub and has been there since 1839.

“The Vic is our community centre, where people of all ages and backgrounds can socialise, in a time when sense of community is so essential to keep alive.

“Tesco should not be allowed to take away our local community pub because this stretch of the A192 is a notorious accident blackspot, with historical data to support this fact.”

The Victoria and Albert was built in 1839, a year after Seaton Delaval Colliery opened.

The pit closed in 1960, but the Vic is still serving the village faithfully, according to the many supporters crowded into Choppington Social Welfare Centre for last week’s meeting.

Tesco spokesman Doug Wilson told councillors that the shop would create almost 20 jobs, most of them part-time.

Chris Gardner, acting as an agent for the supermarket chain, said, amid heckling, that he understood that the pub had not been commercially viable for some time.

“It’s not closing because Tesco has come along,” he said.

Bobby Nixon, councillor for Holywell, said he feared the company would want to extend the new shop even further after moving in.

Planning officer Philip McCarthy had recommended that the application to create a new shopfront and build a 108sq m rear extension be approved, telling the committee it could only take the changes currently proposed into account.

Campaigners have set up a Facebook page opposing Tesco’s plans.