Asbestos hotel hitch

WORK on Beccles’ landmark King’s Head Hotel cannot start until asbestos has been removed from the site, it has emerged.

The popular pub has been closed since last August after it was bought by JD Wetherspoon for redevelopment.

But the building has been left boarded up since then and local people have become increasingly concerned about its condition.

In the last few weeks a number of residents have written letters to the Journal seeking answers about what is happening.

It has now emerged that development work cannot start until asbestos has been removed.

Robert Fisher, of Annandale Drive, Beccles, received a letter from Carolyn Ormerod, of JD Wetherspoon’s acquisitions team, explaining the situation.

It said: “At the time of writing this letter we still do not have confirmed dates for when the development works will take place.

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“We cannot start to develop the pub until the asbestos has been removed from the site and we are currently waiting for our contractors to confirm when this can be removed.

“However, in the interim, I have spoken to our development manager, who is responsible for the property, who has advised me that as soon as we have removed the asbestos we will then be in a position to start the refurbishment works and these will take approximately 20 weeks, although this can be subject to change.

“In addition, I have asked our development manager to address the matter of the property looking like an eyesore and to tidy up the site as much as possible.”

Mr Fisher was pleased to get the letter and said it had given him “a bit more information” than he thought he would get.

But, given the timescales involved, he added: “I think it is going to be dragging on another year.

“I wrote to them and gave them a cutting from the newspaper and more or less said that it looks an eyesore and the general consensus was we didn’t know what was happening and could they help.

“We have been in Beccles for 27 years and the King’s Head is such a focal point, but it has been empty and dilapidated for far too long without anybody knowing what is happening.”

In a letter to the Journal resident Pearl Smith wrote: “How much longer will the people of Beccles have to put up with the state of the King’s Head hotel? This former coaching inn is a historical landmark in the Market Square and to see it boarded up is an eyesore to all.

“Heaven knows what visitors to the town think of it with the trees next to the building needing a good tidying and the car park full of building rubble with no sign of any work in progress.”

The 16th century pub was bought by JD Wetherspoon after being put up for sale in December 2009 when the company which owned it went into administration.

JD Wetherspoon has confirmed that it owns the site and has planning and licensing permission.

A spokesman for the company said: “Asbestos has been found and that needs to be dealt with before building work can progress.”