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Goodbye Red Lion – Forever?

by michael - 13:02 on 08 September 2009

A developer is to seek planning permission for change of useage of the Red Lion from that of a public house to that of residential use. At the same time the kitchen area will be demolished, to make space available for a further property next to the existing building.

The parish council is currently considering the proposal.

Do you have a view?

Opposed to it are those who believe that without a pub as a communal meeting point the village will be far less vibrant and far less interesting as a village. They consider that with the right owner there is an opportunity for a pub as well as a restaurant/coffee shop/tea rooms which would be a very attractive feature close to the village green and would make a great addition to village life.

But some opposition to this view has been stated in the belief that this is merely the continued existence of a pub which has not proven financially viable in the past and will not in the future and while awaiting the appearance of the “the right owner” the Red Lion will simply fall into greater disrepair than at present and a continuing eyesore.

What is your view?  – stated here it can be a clear message from the villagers of Caston to the council and could well sway their final view by having them take into account your thinking on the proposal. All views will be published.

The new owner of the Red Lion has submitted this artist's impression of the changes he hopes to make:-


Comment from Colin Bearne at 16:49 on 08 September 2009.
It is my impression that most people in the village if they wish to enjoy a drink do so at home - for a variety of reasons - if they wish to eat out then they go to a pub or a restaurant. This is true not just of Caston. If the Red Lion cannot be brought to a state where atractive food at competitive prices can be served in comfortable surroundings then it will never be profitable as a pub. Both the shape and the state of the Red Lion argue against this being an economically achievable goal.
I vote for it speedily becoming an attractive residential property.
The worst that could happen is that it should be forced to stagger on servicing a very small minority of "regulars" and facing repeated closure and reopening.
Comment from Steve Farmbrough at 11:00 on 10 September 2009.
This to me is another classic case of some speculator coming into our village not to enhance it but to make a profit and run. I would like to see the new owner try to run it for what it was intended for "A Local Pub" and if that fails then convert to a single dwelling certainly not squeezing 2 on, that's greed.
Comment from Sue & Tony Ash at 14:36 on 10 September 2009.
When Admiral Taverns and Enterprise Inns owned the pub the rent was very high. As a Freehold Pub we believe that it did very good business. Admiral Taverns decided to close the pub when the previous landlords left without giving anybody else a chance to run it. They did not advertise or try to sell the pub as a going concern. We actually think it is wrong to advertise premises as commercial and then they be turned into a private house. When we first moved to the village we got to know a lot of people through visiting the pub.

It is the centre of the community and without it we think it is sad. It would be wonderful to have a good restaurant here and we are sure that if the pub had a good chef and maybe bed and breakfast facilities it would do well. It is quite a big plot so other facilities could be built as well. It doesnt have to be a big drinking bar.

We agree with Steve Farnborough - that if it has to become a house then it should be only one dwelling - worse scenario.
Comment from John Barnes at 16:15 on 10 September 2009.
The village pub, like the school and the village hall are part of the village community. I know that things have changed since my childhood and youth in Caston, but I feel that the sense of community is still important. It is so easy these days to lose that idea of community. We so easily come home from work, shut ourselves in our 'box' for the evening and night and emerge next morning without having spoken to anyone else in the village, let alone having been anywhere or done anything with others. The 'Red Lion' as it stands has not the best layout for a pub-restaurant but, if planning permission were granted, it might be possible to extend it and make it so.
I think that a pub matters to the community - a part of the social framework. The school is said to be the heart of a community - is not a pub its lungs?
Comment from Brian Brooker at 20:10 on 10 September 2009.
I should like to go along the metaphorical route of body parts too because I think we have to decide whether we will be ruled by our heads or our hearts.
My heart tells me that a pub with quality food that stayed open during the day to serve cream teas and the like would be really nice. To sit under a garden shade in the warm sunlight, enjoying a gentle westerly breeze, overlooking the village green, conjures up a delightful picture of the English summer – the kind that I so enjoyed in my youth.
But my head tells me that sentimentality won’t win the day. The likelihood of anyone coming along to buy the Red Lion and run it in that fashion must be very remote indeed. According to new figures released in July 2009, by the British Beer and Pubs Association, pubs in Britain closed at the rate of 52 per week during the first half of 2009 and that’s up by a third over the last six months of 2008. They go on to say that over the last 12 months, 2,377 pubs have closed down, resulting in 24,000 job losses. In the three years to 2009, a total of 5,134 pubs have closed and there are now 53,466 pubs in Britain. Now, what we don’t know is how many of these closures related to ‘drinking’ pubs as opposed to ‘restaurant’ pubs but the problem with the Red Lion is that it doesn’t seem to have the space necessary to provide sufficient tables to make it a viable 'restaurant' pub.
So, the decision facing the planners is, do they stick to the present usage of a public house and see the Red Lion fall into greater disrepair waiting for someone to risk their money, on the off-chance of turning it into a successful business, knowing full well that others have failed in the past and that times have moved on anyway - and meanwhile the aesthetic appearance of the village suffers as a result of the further degradation of the building, or do they say yes to a change of use in order that the village green area can be restored to the pretty and attractive area that it once was.
Times have moved on – what justification can there be for believing that Caston, a small village of 180 homes, not on a main thoroughfare, will buck the trend that is seeing increasing pub closures all over Britain?

And, to all of you folk who say you would like to see it reopened again, ask yourself, did you fully support it when it was open previously? Because if you had, then it almost certainly wouldn't be closed today!
Comment from Gordon & Lynne Wellbelove at 22:24 on 10 September 2009.
We would like to see the Red Lion open again as a pub, good food, drink and company as it used to be. The other local villages have a pub and make a success of it why not us! We agree this needs to be done sooner rather than later as on the whole the village is becoming a village of unfinished properties, derelict properties and houses for sale.

I hope the planners will see sense and let the village have the opportunity of getting our pub back - if this is not possible, ONLY ONE HOUSE!!!not two!!!

We do need some green space in our village
Comment from Malcolm Valentine at 13:36 on 13 September 2009.
The Ferry Inn at Surlingham has been a basket case for the past decade to my knowledge. Recently it has been taken over by a skilled, shrewd, yet charming business woman who has the knack of running a successful pub by knowing what her customers need and providing it at the right price. This is demonstrated by a rapidly growing land based and river based clientele. She has extended her business outside the pub by having tables and a marquee by the river and also provides external catering facilities for large outside events

Although the Red Lion lacks the beauty of the river Yare there is no reason why it could not be a profitable pub providing the right personable, capable, astute business man or woman ran it. The secret of success is in the right person. The awkward facilities of small bar or difficult restaurant arrangements are a poor excuse – just look at the Thompson Chequers, the Griston Wagon and Horses or even the Ferry Inn at Surlingham. None of them has easy facilities yet it is the landlord who has turned them into good ‘I must visit them again’ type pubs. The Red Lion could also provide the catering for the two large events currently held annually in the village; and no doubt there would be others held locally.

We must also accept that there could be a social and business demand for other facilities such as a pool table, local home grown pop-group evenings, juke box, large screen sky TV and other activities to attract the younger members of our society. This may inconvenience some local people but for social reasons it more important to provide such facilities locally.

A successful pub could also provide much needed part time employment for local people – cleaners, bar, restaurant and kitchen staff and other outside staff.

There are too many vested interests wanting this pub closed and converted into a string of dwellings; the new owner of the Red Lion wants a quick profit; architects, builders and other artisans need jobs and Breckland Council welcomes an enhanced council tax income. We the inhabitants of Caston must prevent this from happening as it will turn our treasured village into another anonymous estate with minimal facilities.
Comment from Pat Butterfield at 15:58 on 14 September 2009.
I agree with a lot of the comments so far in that it would be so nice to have a decent public house in our village. If the right owner could be found it would definitely be a viable business, but I don't think it will be as just a drinking pub as most people drink at home now. The answer is to turn it into a decent restaurant/coffee house/small public house; a few villages have been mentioned above that have succeeded with the right owner and I would like to add the Village Inn at Little Melton - a tiny little village about the same size as Caston and they have turned this public house into a superb carvery, not expensive at £3.50 - so if other public houses can sort it out I cannot see why The Red Lion cannot be sorted. In any event whether it is ONE residential house or a modernised public place, it will be better than the sad looking building it is now.
Comment from Graham at 15:56 on 18 September 2009.
Looks OK to me where do the bottle banks go though?
If left much longer it will start to collapse as the White House is, then they can knock it down as an unsafe structure,(is that what they are hoping to happen to the White House I wonder)
Comment from phil crosthwaite jnr at 19:47 on 21 September 2009.
It would be a shame to see the pub go. As already suggested the right person can make this a viable option.(Chequers, Waggon and Horses, Rocklands White Hart) In recent years it was been successful when Ed Devlin was the landlord. Great quality food and a great atmosphere which starts with the landlord/landlady not the building. Successful enough to be bought by a brewery. I would like to suggest that the problem with the pub is a direct result of planning restrictions in the past. The continuing success of this pub was held back by not giving permission to extend the original pub encompassing its formidable outbuildings. I know that in the past people have wanted to improve on the size of the pub and therefore increase trade. If allowed, we would still have a pub. So are the same people going to grant residential use with no doubt coversion of the outbuildings? Yes, my family and I used to use the Lion on a regular basis and would like to continue to do so. Not so in its last moments as the place was dirty and run poorly. Remember this is a last chance, once the pub goes there will never be another!
Comment from leon scott at 13:11 on 29 September 2009.
the red lion was a good enough pub and it had lots of visitors and it was a very nice atmosphere so this pub has no need to be sold
Comment from Ruth at 20:11 on 10 November 2009.
This seems to be a bit of a storm in a tea-cup. A listed building, presently in a state of disrepair, needs attention. Those with fond memories of the Red Lion as a going concern need to remember that in the present economic climate, the successful pubs in our locality are struggling - menus have altered to enable cheaper prices in an attempt to maximise covers. Many pubs are having to close every week in the UK, and it is very easy to say Caston needs a pub, but are locals really going to support it. The village has a lot of whingers coming out of the woodwork, but very little is being said of substance which would enable a viable business to succeed - wishful thinking is not enough. Someone has purchased the building, wishes to make it residential and dares to propose to build another - making money in the process - good luck to them. What a disappointment to see such bitterness encouraged by those that should know better - the place is an eyesore - but there is a solution. I wish the developer every success and hope Caston hasn't lost the chance for improvement.
Comment from Tony Ash at 14:31 on 13 November 2009.
In response to the comment by Ruth as an objector to the proposed plans for the Red Lion I feel I should respond.
.. Webmaster did update the village to the plans at the first opportunity and invited comments. Several comments were placed and the local residents were easily identified as their surnames were published.

.. Many rural pubs that were due to lose their status are now on-going concerns due to local support. The questionnaires that we got back from Caston, Northacre and Stow Bedon all showed total support. With so many positive replies could we just let it be "rubber stamped"?

"Whingers" I feel should be replaced with the words "local residents"!! As for the comment "coming out of the woodwork" - this should be replaced with willing to put pen to paper.

Bitterness has never come into the equation and as for the comment "should know better" perhaps Ruth should have been at the meeting and made comment to the Council members herself.

As for the "chance of improvement" - what improvement could be better than a place for local residents to come together as and when other than for organised functions at the village hall.

One further point is that the owners have a commitment to maintain the Red Lion as a listed building and cannot let it fall into delapidation.

Let us hope that the owners will change their mind and at least try to regain a once thriving and community asset.
Comment from josie pinnock at 11:36 on 24 February 2010.
im disgusted with the idea in hand this is caston the one place everyone feels happy and oh my days im so upset i know this might sound silly but what if some one was willing to but it straight out how do you feel about that for an idea? please i would love some feed back please email me or call me yours truely josie :)
Comment from -1' at 12:12 on 18 December 2014.

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