Pause for thought

SIR - Re: The Old Ship Inn. The correspondence in your letters page indicates the strength of local feeling on this topic and, in the main, the opposition to the loss of a popular, historic pub in exchange for yet another coffee shop, enabling another ‘High Street brand’ to make an unwelcome appearance in our local street scene.

I found Mr French’s letter applying the ‘it’s just a business transaction’ argument in support of Mr Newton’s sale of The Old Ship for conversion to a Costa Coffee shop just a little disingenuous.

Firstly, as a publican himself, Mr French clearly potentially benefits from the reduction in the number of rival businesses in town.

Secondly, it is generally accepted nowadays that business should be conducted with due regard to social responsibility, sustainability and enhancing customer choice, so the ‘it’s just a business transaction’ justification really doesn’t wash.

There is widespread concern, reflected by other letters you have published and objections to the relevant planning applications (viewable on EDDC’s planning portal), that this is yet another example of Sidmouth town centre succumbing to colonisation by national ‘High Street brands’ to the detriment of local character and our town’s special ambience. I hope our local elected representatives take note.

I like a coffee when I’m out and about and it’s good to be able to choose where I buy it, but how many such establishments can one little town really need?

By contrast, the choice of pubs in which I can buy a pint and get a meal is further diminished by the potential loss of the lovely Old Ship Inn, where Shaun and Gail have worked really hard to create a welcoming atmosphere appreciated by both locals and visitors.

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Mr French feels that Mr Newton does not “deserve the backlash” that he is experiencing over his decision to sell The Old Ship to someone intent on turning it from a much-loved pub to a Costa Coffee shop.

Well, Mr Newton is a businessman whose roots are firmly established in the Sid Valley and he rightly enjoyed the sympathy and support of many people when The Blue Ball was destroyed by fire; he, of all people, must surely understand that many people develop deep affections for good pubs.

The reaction of many to his decision to dispose of The Old Ship in this way should really not have come as a surprise.

For my part, I’ve lobbied my local councillors, I’ve lodged objections to the planning applications, I’ve alerted CAMRA, who intend to lodge an objection to yet another pub closure, I’ve signed the petition in South West Arts next door to The Old Ship (well done for organising that) and I’ve advised Mr Newton that I won’t be visiting The Blue Ball again.

These may end up being futile gestures, but, maybe, just maybe, if enough people care enough to make a noise, those of the ‘it’s just a business transaction’ mentality might pause for thought before they take decisions which impact so detrimentally on our special town.

Ian Mosley

Lavinia Cottage, 14 Newtown, Sidmouth