Pub firm's £2.2 million plan for former Pizza Express restaurant

Up to 25 jobs will be created and a vacant building refurbished under a £2.2 million plan to open a new pub in Ludlow town centre.

A glazed link extension and outdoor dining area will be created to the rear of the pub.
A glazed link extension and outdoor dining area will be created to the rear of the pub.

Oakman Inns and Restaurants has applied for planning permission to return the former Pizza Express restaurant back to its historic use, having originally been known as the George Hotel.

As well as the restoration and extension of the former Pizza Express building at 12 Castle Street, which has been closed since last year, the proposals also take in the back storage area of the neighbouring M&Co premises at number 10.

The applicant says the extra space is needed to provide a large enough dining area to make the business viable.

A planning statement by Walsingham Planning, agent to the pub chain, says: “The pub industry and public expectations have developed such that pubs now struggle to survive on bar sales alone.

“The additional seating covers provided by the change of use of some of 10 Castle Street’s back of house area is therefore required to meet business needs and secure the pub’s long-term viability, as well as meet customer needs and return to being an important community asset.

“The applicant plans to invest heavily into this development to the tune of around £2.2 million.

“The additional covers provide financial security for this level of investment.”

Ludlow's Pizza Express restaurant closed last year.

Under the plans, a glazed link extension will be created to the rear along with an outdoor dining area.

It is proposed for the pub to operate between 8am and midnight Sunday to Thursday, extending to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Both buildings are Grade II listed and lie within the town’s conservation area.

The statement says no changes are to be made to their historic frontages, and any harm “will be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal”.

It concludes: “Bringing the building back into use as a pub will help draw people into Ludlow town centre and result in increased dwell time and linked spending within the area.

“Local businesses will benefit from its use and the development will help attract additional investment into the town centre.

How the outdoor dining area could look.

“It is Oakman’s intention, once planning and listed building consent has been granted, to start to carry out the necessary works as soon as they can in order to open the pub for business.

“The proposed development would create a number of jobs for local people – estimated to be 25 full-time equivalents – with the requirement for bar staff, waiting staff, kitchen staff and management.”

The plans will now be decided by Shropshire Council.

Councillor Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow North, said the scheme was “well thought out”.

He added: “It brings an empty building into use with a focus on drinking and food, two of Ludlow’s favourite pastimes.

“Current publicans may think it as a challenge, especially as it is expected to serve food in a pub environment between 2pm and 6pm and late into the evening.

“Our town centre has always been a place to experience as well as shop.

“Ludlow’s thriving market surrounded by good eating and drinking is a pleasing contrast to other towns where the town centre has been neglected as everything moved out of town.”

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