A covenant protecting a Northampton pub from being turned into anything other than a drinking establishment could be lifted so the Co-op can crack on with a mini-supermarket plan.
Protestors hoping to stop the Barn Owl in Olden Road, Rectory Farm, from becoming a convenience store thought they had been thrown a lifeline when it was discovered the two-storey building was protected by a covenant put in place by the defunct Northampton Development Corporation in 1984.
The deed made it so any further use of that site would have to be as a pub.
But despite the discovery, Northampton Borough Council says it has agreed a deal to lift the covenant, which would allow the Co-op plan to continue at a cost of £30,000.
A decision will be made on the matter at the council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Councillor James Hill (Con, Rectory Farm) has been fighting the conversion since it was first announced in December 2015 and believes his own Tory cabinet colleagues should vote to honour the covenant.
He said: “We just think from the council’s point of view it’s short-sighted.
“So they might get £30,000, but if this shop goes ahead, it will close the Costcutter store down the road.
“They don’t want to be left with a derelict building.”
When the plan to turn the Barn Owl into a shop was first announced last year, it quickly garnered more than 550 letters of objection.
However cabinet papers show that enacting the covenant could cost the council up to £100,000 in legal bills.
The report also states that the Co-op would have to provide a free-of-charge community room as well as the £30,000, as part of a deal to lift the 1984 covenant.
Councillor Tim Hadland, cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and planning, said: “Legal action to enforce the covenant could leave Northampton Borough Council with a substantial bill and would not, of its own, bring the pub back into use.
“That money would be better used by investing in our town and the people who live in it.
“Disused buildings are never conducive to creating healthy communities and should the covenant be enforced, this site could continue to stand empty indefinitely.
“The developers have offered an arrangement that will avoid costly legal action and still ensure the availability of a practical community space. On balance, a compromise seems to offer the best result for the wider community.”