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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
Protest at court room pub plan
Shire Hall protest
Dozens of people gathered for the protest in Haverfordwest
Campaigners have held a protest outside a historic Pembrokeshire court room that could become a pub.

Dozens of people gathered outside the Shire Hall in Haverfordwest to object to the sale of the building to pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

Pembrokeshire Council has made the company its preferred developer for the empty landmark built in 1837.

Wetherspoons says refurbishment work will be done to the highest standard if its detailed plans are approved.

Our main complaint about this is that for the county council to sell it off as a pub is of no benefit to Haverfordwest
Richard Blacklaw-Jones

Wednesday evening's demonstration was organised by members of the Haverfordwest Civic Society.

It wants to see the listed building used as an arts and tourism venue.

A petition, already signed by more than 1,000 people, has been circulating Pembrokeshire for the past month.

Among those taking part in the protest was civic society member Richard Blacklaw-Jones.

He said: "We are not anti-Wetherspoons, they would be very welcome somewhere else in the town just not here.

"Our main complaint about this is that for the county council to sell it off as a pub is of no benefit to Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire and actually it would be harmful."

The civic society was involved in a bid to try and turn the hall into an arts venue but Mr Blacklaw-Jones claimed the council did not give them enough time or take their bid seriously.

Richard Blacklaw-Jones
Richard Blacklaw-Jones wants the hall to become an arts venue

He said part of the plan was to house work by world-renowned Pembrokeshire-born cartoonist and illustrator Ralph Steadman there.

"We had six months to prepare the bid and it was not as advanced as we would have liked," he added.

"But it is a lost opportunity.

"The council seems to view this building as a mill stone and they just want shot of it as fast as possible."

The Shire Hall, Pembrokeshire's main court house since the reign of William IV, has been empty since the court moved a year ago.

The council's cabinet invited bids for the redevelopment of the building and selected Wetherspoon from a short-list of three.

A Wetherspoon spokesman said: "The council invited a number of tenders - Wetherspoon had nothing to do with the decision making process apart from putting in a proposal.

"Wetherspoon runs about 45 pubs throughout Wales and the company has a very good reputation for converting listed buildings and has won various awards.

"The pubs appeal to all sections of the community and are very well run.

"If the council is looking to have a good operator in there to maintain and refurbish the building to a very high standard then Wetherspoon would be a very good choice."


SEE ALSO:
Courthouse pub plan fought
22 Mar 04  |  South West Wales
Wetherspoon may turn on the telly
03 Mar 04  |  Business
Wetherspoon cuts back pub openings
05 Sep 03  |  Business


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