BREAKING NEWS: Cabinet votes to keep protective covenant for Northampton pub despite fears doing so would cost taxpayer Â£200k
A controversial move to keep a Northampton pub's protective covenant in place that caused a split between the Conservative group and prompted it's leader to quit, has now been ratified.
Councillor Mary Markham (Con, Park) stood down as leader of Northampton Borough Council on Monday because she felt a move to enforce a 1984 document stopping the Barn Owl in Rectory Farm from becoming a shop, would leave the council open to A £200,000 legal bill.
She instead wanted the pub's owners, Hawthorn Leisure, to pay a £30,000 sweetener to lift the covenant, providing it agreed to keep a room available for community use.
But with her successor Councillor Jonathan Nunn (Con, Nene Valley) at the helm of a cabinet meeting at the Guildhall tonight, the group voted against her proposal.
Cabinet member for planning and regeneration, Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, old Duston) said: "We are not in a position to go along with the reccomendation in this report.
"We are not talking about deferring this either. We are saying we will not be going along with the recommendation to lift this covenant."
Earlier in the evening chairman of the Rectory Farm Residents' Association Keith Holland-Delamere, presented a petition to the cabinet of 712 names, asking it to keep the covenant in place. Those names were gathered in little over two days, he said.
The pub has long since shut, but the legal document put in place by the Northampton Development Corporation in 1984, now gives the Rectory Farm community bargaining power against Hawthorn Leisure.
More than 550 peopel sent in letters of objection when it's plans to shut the Barn owl and tunr int into a Co-op were announced last December.
The company's miniscule consultation, where they asked little over 20 people whether they wanted to keep a pub, was deemed not good enough. But their recent offer of keeping an upstairs room available for "community use" above the Co-op was not seen as good enough by the Rectory Farm campaigners either.
Councillor james hill (Co, Rectory Farm0 whose campaign to keepo the barn owl inadvertently led to his leader standing down, hopes the decision to keep the covenant in place will force hawthorn leisure to get back round the negotiating table.
He said: "Effectively the hard work starts here now.
"We know it's not very good to have a building empty, and we want to get Hawthorn Leisure back to the negotiating table.
"We have our own proposals and we know if they wanted to change their scheme they could do.2
"Hopefully they come back with plans that better serve the community."