‘Drag dinosaurs into 21st Century’

The Crown Hotel, Biggleswade High Street PNL-140210-151049001
The Crown Hotel, Biggleswade High Street PNL-140210-151049001

‘Idiots and dinosaurs who are stuck in the past and not hearing what the people want.’

These are just some of the complaints levied at Biggleswade Town Council after it once again voted to object to Wetherspoon’s plans for the Crown Hotel on the High Street.

But mayor Hazel Ramsay says the council still hopes to welcome Wetherspoons with open arms – once it has addressed its concerns.

She highlighted the way the council had worked with Pizza Express when it moved to town, and said: “We are hopeful of a similar successful outcome to the planning discussion underway with Wetherspoons, and we hope that they will be open in the near future.”

Social media was awash with criticism of the council, with an overwhelming majority voicing support for the pub chain’s plans to reopen the building – which has been closed for more than a year – as a hotel and pub.

Councillors were accused of being ‘stuck in the 19th Century’, and labelled idiots and dinosaurs, while a poll on the We Love Biggleswade page showed 191 people in favour of the plans, and 12 against.

Concerns were also raised that councillors had a vested interest in denying Wetherspoons.

Councillor Sarah Mulchrone, of the Rose pub, voted against the plans. She said there was no conflict of interest, as the application was for a hotel, and not a pub.

Cllr Ramsay later said Central Beds Council would be aware of any potential conflicts of interest with any application, as all councillors fill out detailed declarations when elected.

A petition set up by Councillor Bernard Rix gathered more than 350 signatures in just a few days.

The petition calls for a sensitive redevelopment of the site, that preserves its historic nature. It also demands that Central Beds Council protects Abbots Walk as a public right of way.

Currently Abbots Walk is not an official right of way, as it is privately owned.

While he had originally voted to oppose the plan, Cllr Rix changed his mind after speaking with local people.

He said: “My primary concern is that we lose the Crown redevelopment simply for want of keeping access through it. For me that would be a very great shame.”

The petition is online at www.tinyurl.com/Crown

But these steps could already be too late, as Central Beds Council is due to discuss the right of way through the Crown’s yard next week.

The report states: “Representations from the Town Council and frustrated users indicate that there is a wish to see this route re-opened as soon as possible.”

And officers have recommended that the council recognises the route as a right of way, and takes enforcement action to remove the obstruction put in place by Wetherspoons and recover costs from the company.

The meeting is at Central Beds’ HQ at Priory House, Chicksands at 11am on Wednesday.

It is open to the public, and documents can be viewed at http://goo.gl/rWuOyy

The Biggleswade Chronicle approached JDWetherspoons for comment, but the company was unable to provide a comment before we went to press.