Plans to redevelop a much-loved and long-derelict Marston pub as a three-story block of flats have been given the green light by council chiefs.
The Jack Russell pub, in Salford Road, has been the source of a long-running saga after it was damaged in a suspected arson attack in November last year and subsequently earmarked for a development of 16 flats on site.
There had been talk of a new pub being built to replace the charred remains of the Jack Russell after Ronnie Politt, owner of Templar’s Bar and Kitchen, Cowley, approached the owner with a bid.
But despite this, and over 100 letters sent to Oxford City Council against the proposal, the council’s planning chiefs voted unanimously to go ahead with the plans at a city council east area planning committee on Wednesday last week.
City councillor for Marston Cllr Mick Haines, a regular at the pub before its destruction, said he is personally “very disappointed” and “very upset for the community” to see the council grant permission for the flats.
He added: “We have got nothing else there.
“I feel sorry for the people in the community.”
Cllr Haines, who said the Jack Russell was the first pub he visited when he moved to the area in 1973, revealed that plans to convert it into another pub were realistic but ultimately the campaign to restore the scorched pub to its former glory came too late.
Two or three people have since told the Independent councillor that they are considering moving as a result of the council’s decision.
But fellow Marston city councillor Mary Clarkson insisted there wasn’t much manoeuvrability for the pub supporters and reluctantly supported the plans for 16 flats.
She said: “The Jack Russell has been struggling for years and although it had some loyal local customers, it never had enough to make it a viable concern.
“When it first closed, I was very keen to have a moratorium so that local people and other pub owners had a chance to put a bid together to make it a going concern again.
“Despite a period of six months or so, a bid never materialised so reluctantly I supported the outline planning position for the pub to become flats.”
The Labour councillor added that she fought for the area to be made available for community use but that “the developers were unwilling to take it on board”.
Cllr Clarkson said: “In the absence either of any evidence that a rebuilt pub on the site would be viable or of people to make one a going concern, I did not support Cllr Haines’ position.”
But Cllr Clarkson, who also chairs the General Purposes Licensing Committee, believes Oxford pubs have an optimistic future.
She said: “I don’t think that it is the end of the road for urban pubs – far from it.
“We can see in Oxford that there are enterprising people who have taken on failing pubs and have had the imagination to come up with something which appeals to people in the neighbourhood.
“The Chester Arms in Iffley Fields and Jacob’s Inn in Wolvercote are a couple of successful examples.
“I think that The Somerset in New Marston could be successful again with a similar approach.”