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Pub owner pulls down shutters on shelter deal
A PUB owner who pledged the use of a city centre premises as a homeless shelter has walked away from the deal.
Graham Lock, owner of the old Toby’s Tavern pub in Sansome Street, Worcester, said the proposed agreement had “fizzled out” after a drawn-out planning process.
Your Worcester News exclusively reported last year how Mr Lock had made the generous offer which would have seen the city’s winter night shelter service for the homeless move into the spacious building.
Under the plan, Mr Lock would have granted a long-term lease to Worcester Community Housing (WCH) which would have renovated and managed the premises as a shelter.
The city and county’s outreach teams who work with Worcester’s homeless would have been based in offices at the premises providing services together with nine beds all under a single roof.
There would have been a communal space for drop-in visitors and a kitchen to prepare hot meals.
The deal had reached an advanced stage with plans for the £60,000 renovations passed in April this year.
But communication broke down between the parties, according to both WCH and St Paul’s Hostel, Worcester.
Mr Lock said the project had cost him “a year’s rates” on a vacant building while the planning process had dragged on, although Worcester City Council’s planning chief Paul O’Connor denied any issues had been raised with his department.
Mr Lock said: “That project fizzled out and was costing me quite a bit in rates.
“Quite frankly, if they had taken it when it was offered [September 2009] then they could have had it but they messed it about for 12 months.”
Andy Howarth, WCH’s finance director, said the housing association had offered to cover the rates but never received a reply.
“It seemed like a good idea at the outset but Mr Lock was continually gobsmacked at how long it took to get through planning,” he said.
“It may reflect badly on us as to how long it took, but we were ready to go in April with permission but then he stopped talking to us.”
Mr Howarth said he would be happy to continue with the project if Mr Lock changed his mind.
Chris Ashcroft, St Paul’s Hostel chief executive, said with the collapse of the deal they were still desperate for a larger building to help the city’s most vulnerable people, and house the vital night shelter.
On Monday your Worcester News reported that Mr Lock’s other city centre venue – Bossa Nova in New Street – would remain closed for the “foreseeable future”.
Earlier this year Mr Lock secured planning permission to extend the club and add a rooftop terrace restaurant bar, subject to strict conditions because it is in a conservation area.