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Fight to save last pub on busy high street

Added: Wednesday, July 20th 2016

Cambridge Hotel

Pub campaigners in Surrey are mounting a major effort to save the last pub on a busy high street that its owners, Stonegate Pub Company, want to sell to property developers. The Cambridge Hotel was once one of 16 pubs on London Road, Camberley, and members of the Surrey Hampshire Borders branch of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale (pictured), say it’s “part of the town’s heart and soul”.

The pub was built in 1862 by Captain Charles Raleigh Knight, a property developer. It stands on the A30, the busy road from London to the West Country, and offered accommodation as well as food and drink. Stonegate bought the pub in 2011 and now wants to sell it to the London-based investment company Shaviram Group. Stonegate closed the pub on 3 July.

CAMRA spokesman Kevin Travers says: “The Cambridge is the most traditional pub in the town centre and there are not many left like it. We want to give the community a chance to keep it as a pub. It’s still a viable business and the owners have shown they can make money from it when they want to.

“It was always busy, especially on karaoke nights and during sports matches. It has accommodation upstairs and the barn was always busy at weekends with DJs playing.

“Unfortunately, the owners know they can make more money by selling it to developers.”

He and his CAMRA colleagues have urged Surrey Heath Council to designate the Cambridge an Asset of Community Value (ACV).  Kevin adds: “ACV status offers a valuable level of protection and we have used it to save pubs in the past. It raises the profile of the pub, reminding people that it has always been a community asset and engendering a feeling of ownership in the community.”

He says a good example was the Windmill pub in Ewshot, near Farnham, which was under threat of closure until it was given ACV status and subsequently bought by residents. He adds that if the Cambridge is given an ACV, CAMRA will urge community groups in Camberley to consider bidding for it.

A spokesman for the Shaviram Group says he expects a planning application to go before the council later this year and for redevelopment work to begin in 2017. He adds that his company has not decided whether the Cambridge Hotel would be demolished or converted to housing. Shaviram already owns Norwich House, an office block next to the pub that has been given permission to be redeveloped into 53 flats.

Camberley historian Ken Clarke says the Cambridge Hotel was built when Camberley was still called Cambridge Town. He adds: “It would be sad to see this historic building disappear like so many others before it, as it is one of the last links with Camberley’s glorious past. We can ill afford to keep losing our shrinking heritage and history.”