Outcry as developer seeks to build homes on old Didcot pub site

The Sprat pub is set to be demolished

The Sprat pub is set to be demolished

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

DIDCOT residents have hit out at new plans to knock down an historic pub and buil homes on the site.

Wantage construction firm BPJ has submitted a second planning application to demolish The Sprat, on Hagbourne Road, and replace it with six houses.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) refused its first plan for seven homes in February for being out of character with the area.

The company bought the 1874 pub for £358,642 in 2010 and put it on the market for £425,000 in 2011.

Tesco offered £350,000 but no deal was done, the planning application shows.

Didcot Town Council member and former mayor Peter Reade said he would prefer to see the pub, which is still open, upgraded but feared it would not be possible.

Mr Reade, who lives next door to the pub in East Street, said: “If it was updated as a community pub it would be nice. Didcot hasn’t got a huge range of pubs. We are surrounded by fancy pubs in the village.”

Cavdendish Park resident Frederick Johns, 84, told the council: “I have been using The Sprat for upwards of five years.

“As I am 84 years old it is very important as my only social outlet.

“The next public house is some three quarters of a mile away, posing a problem.

“I understand that The Sprat, like East Street, is in a Conservation Area and therefore protected.

“The traffic density in Hagbourne Road is considerable. Six more high-density dwellings would aggravate the situation.

“The Sprat is a valuable social amenity and has a considerable customer base, more so when holding pool and darts competitions.

“It is essentially very friendly and welcoming.”

Another Hagbourne Road resident wrote: “Hagbourne Road is host to a high volume of traffic and to build six extra homes here, each with two car spaces, will hugely exacerbate the problem.”

But BPJ director Ian Sullivan said: “The pub is now extremely run down and requires considerable investment in order to bring it up to modern standards.

“It does not generate a sufficient return in terms of rental income to warrant such investment.

“The pub also has a very poor reputation locally, with many neighbours expressing a wish to see the pub closed and the site redeveloped for alternative uses.”

The public can comment on the plans until Wednesday, September 10. The council planning committee is due to make a decision on the plan by Thursday, October 2.

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Comments (7)

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6:32pm Wed 27 Aug 14

AlbertW says...

The Sprat used to be called the railway Arms in my younger days, the name changing to reflect the sale of fish there during the late 40s and early 50s.
Surely I can't be the only one still alive to remember this?

Al.
The Sprat used to be called the railway Arms in my younger days, the name changing to reflect the sale of fish there during the late 40s and early 50s. Surely I can't be the only one still alive to remember this? Al. AlbertW
  • Score: 3

5:56am Thu 28 Aug 14

Myron Blatz says...

Ah, rural village life in Didcot - I just had to travel 'half-a-mile' from the article to the on-line Comments section, due to in-house promotional items and adverts, due to the inane editorial policy of the Oxford Mail! As for the 'Sprat' - sounds like the developer bought it to catch a much bigger 'fish' in the shape of fat profit. Reality is that in today's property marketplace, commercial is not as profitable as housing - and public houses are no longer the money-spinners and commumity social centres they supposedly once were. It is sad that yet another pub may close, but if the neighbourhood and local community felt so strongly, am sure the current property developer would be onterested to hear from them - after all, the developer had already apparently been happy to sell the pub to Tesco for well under the original asking price.
Ah, rural village life in Didcot - I just had to travel 'half-a-mile' from the article to the on-line Comments section, due to in-house promotional items and adverts, due to the inane editorial policy of the Oxford Mail! As for the 'Sprat' - sounds like the developer bought it to catch a much bigger 'fish' in the shape of fat profit. Reality is that in today's property marketplace, commercial is not as profitable as housing - and public houses are no longer the money-spinners and commumity social centres they supposedly once were. It is sad that yet another pub may close, but if the neighbourhood and local community felt so strongly, am sure the current property developer would be onterested to hear from them - after all, the developer had already apparently been happy to sell the pub to Tesco for well under the original asking price. Myron Blatz
  • Score: 4

9:59am Thu 28 Aug 14

jkg says...

The writing has been on the wall for the Sprat; this pub has a unique character and should IMHO be retained in the conservation area.

Like many pubs they are targets for property development, maybe run down deliberately to pursue that policy; BPJ are now able to say "the pub is now extremely run down and requires considerable investment in order to bring it up to modern standards".

As Fred Johns says, there are no alternatives in this corner of the town; and more houses here would make traffic movement even worse. The pub is in walking distance for many people.

The neighbours expressing a wish to see the pub closed and the site redeveloped should not complain, they could end up in a worse situation.
The writing has been on the wall for the Sprat; this pub has a unique character and should IMHO be retained in the conservation area. Like many pubs they are targets for property development, maybe run down deliberately to pursue that policy; BPJ are now able to say "the pub is now extremely run down and requires considerable investment in order to bring it up to modern standards". As Fred Johns says, there are no alternatives in this corner of the town; and more houses here would make traffic movement even worse. The pub is in walking distance for many people. The neighbours expressing a wish to see the pub closed and the site redeveloped should not complain, they could end up in a worse situation. jkg
  • Score: 2

10:18am Thu 28 Aug 14

CelticBhoy37 says...

If the pub does not generate a profit to sustain itself in the economy we now live, it has to change by either investment in updating the decor and re-branding. The Sprat has always been seen as a workers pub to me, where workers went after work and had a few beers before going home. It's has change as that's not what makes money. Also pub has a bad reputation though this could be historic and not how the pub is today. It's like Broadway's it's just a pub that exists in Didcot where locals go at weekends as it's got a late licence and a disco. The patrons of the Sprat have to understand it's a business that has to be viable, and it's not. If they invest into the pub the company would not want builders and people in work clothes in there, as that is not making the pub money. Re-branding most probably won't work either as pubs going out of business, people want places to eat and drink and I am not sure the Sprat has the size to accommodate this. The old public house will soon be a thing of the past.
If the pub does not generate a profit to sustain itself in the economy we now live, it has to change by either investment in updating the decor and re-branding. The Sprat has always been seen as a workers pub to me, where workers went after work and had a few beers before going home. It's has change as that's not what makes money. Also pub has a bad reputation though this could be historic and not how the pub is today. It's like Broadway's it's just a pub that exists in Didcot where locals go at weekends as it's got a late licence and a disco. The patrons of the Sprat have to understand it's a business that has to be viable, and it's not. If they invest into the pub the company would not want builders and people in work clothes in there, as that is not making the pub money. Re-branding most probably won't work either as pubs going out of business, people want places to eat and drink and I am not sure the Sprat has the size to accommodate this. The old public house will soon be a thing of the past. CelticBhoy37
  • Score: 1

11:32am Thu 28 Aug 14

andy1975 says...

I appreciate that for some this pub has some character, but most of Didcot wouldn't dream of setting foot in there. But a pub that has clearly been neglected to that extent simply cannot expect to survive especially in a town which is developing rapidly.

I would hope that the Wallingford arms is next to go. It sits empty all week and during day times in order to operate basically as a nightclub. Again most people wouldn't go in there and as it occupies a prime site it should either be revamped to serve the community or be sold for development.
I appreciate that for some this pub has some character, but most of Didcot wouldn't dream of setting foot in there. But a pub that has clearly been neglected to that extent simply cannot expect to survive especially in a town which is developing rapidly. I would hope that the Wallingford arms is next to go. It sits empty all week and during day times in order to operate basically as a nightclub. Again most people wouldn't go in there and as it occupies a prime site it should either be revamped to serve the community or be sold for development. andy1975
  • Score: 1

2:12pm Thu 28 Aug 14

cornflake girl says...

The village only has Fancy pubs - Didcot really where please list them ?
I could'nt name 1 personally.
I do think however that it would be a shame to lose The Sprat and under the right management and a good upgrade / good food menu it could become a nice fancy pub, making it the only one in Didcot.
The village only has Fancy pubs - Didcot really where please list them ? I could'nt name 1 personally. I do think however that it would be a shame to lose The Sprat and under the right management and a good upgrade / good food menu it could become a nice fancy pub, making it the only one in Didcot. cornflake girl
  • Score: 0

12:58pm Thu 4 Sep 14

online_reader says...

cornflake girl wrote:
The village only has Fancy pubs - Didcot really where please list them ?
I could'nt name 1 personally.
I do think however that it would be a shame to lose The Sprat and under the right management and a good upgrade / good food menu it could become a nice fancy pub, making it the only one in Didcot.
He means only the villages have fancy pubs. People in Didcot eat and drink in the excellent and plentiful nearby village pubs, for example the Fleur de Lys in East Hagbourne, The Crown in South Moreton, The Bear in North Moreton, The Hart of Harwell... I could go on and on. Sadly there isn't a single decent one in the town centre, so The Sprat genuinely could do very good business with a revamp. Cornerstone Arts Centre is the only half way pleasant place for a pint in my opinion.
[quote][p][bold]cornflake girl[/bold] wrote: The village only has Fancy pubs - Didcot really where please list them ? I could'nt name 1 personally. I do think however that it would be a shame to lose The Sprat and under the right management and a good upgrade / good food menu it could become a nice fancy pub, making it the only one in Didcot.[/p][/quote]He means only the villages have fancy pubs. People in Didcot eat and drink in the excellent and plentiful nearby village pubs, for example the Fleur de Lys in East Hagbourne, The Crown in South Moreton, The Bear in North Moreton, The Hart of Harwell... I could go on and on. Sadly there isn't a single decent one in the town centre, so The Sprat genuinely could do very good business with a revamp. Cornerstone Arts Centre is the only half way pleasant place for a pint in my opinion. online_reader
  • Score: 0

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