A COUNCILLOR has warned that a derelict pub shut for over 30 years could become ‘a pile of bricks’.

Councillors recently made a major decision over the future of the Unicorn pub in Great Rollright, a Grade II listed building.

West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC) cabinet met virtually on December 16 and decided to enter a legal agreement with the pub’s new owners, whereby the council will not take action on enforced sale or compulsory purchase of the property.

Over the last 18 months, the pub, closed since 1991, has had new owners.

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However, in order to secure funding to carry out repairs, the council has been approached by the new owners and was asked to agree to a period of time during which it would not progress either an enforced sale application to the courts or an application for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).

The council had previously agreed to progress a CPO, which would allow WODC to take over the property, however it was seen as a last resort.

This moratorium period, which could be as long as between 24 and 30 months, will provide time for funders to invest in the site.

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The decision to enter the moratorium period was one that irked Andrew Beaney, district councillor for the Rollright ward.

He said at the meeting: “It’s another three years where this building is allowed to become even more unstable, it’s just going to become a pile of bricks if we’re not careful.

“We are allowing a Grade II listed building to become neglected and harmed.”

Toby Morris, the council’s deputy leader, said: “This is a sensitive subject with a long history and I think members are quite rightly frustrated at the lack of progress being made to the Unicorn.

“However I would suggest the passage of time and lack of progress is not down to lack of action from the council.

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“What we’ve done over recent years is to carry out our statutory duties while engaging with the owners to find a resolution.

“This approach has resulted in the council issuing repairs notices in order to make the building safe.

“We’ve also agreed to progress the CPO however it was made clear at the time the CPO must be a last resort and this process is extremely lengthy and there are a number of boxes we must tick.

“Failure to tick every single box would result in the CPO failing and the process starts again.

“Recently the Unicorn changed ownership and they have approached the council with a view to progressing the works required and indeed pre-planning advice has been sought for enabling development, demonstrating a willingness for the works to be completed.

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“We’ve also been approached by the owners’ agents and their ability to raise the funding required is restricted by the decision from this council to progress a CPO.

“In not agreeing, then we as a council have not negotiated and in doing so, prevented them from carrying out the works required and therefore the CPO would be likely to fail.

“This is the best way of seeing action in the short term to secure the listed building.”

Jeff Haine, who seconded the proposal, added: “It is the right way forward, we are doing something and it will take two years for the moratorium period to pan out according to plan, and if it doesn’t then we go back to where we were and start process on the CPO.”