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Row breaks out over future of a Cockfield village green pub

A row has broken out over the future of a village pub.

Landlords Ron and Janice East have applied for permission to change the Plough and Fleece, Great Green, Cockfield, into a house.

They say the pub, where the couple live, has become ‘unviable’ due to a ‘lack of local support’, with Covid-19 being the final straw.

The Plough and Fleece Cockfield. Picture by Mark Westley
The Plough and Fleece Cockfield. Picture by Mark Westley

But their planning application has prompted more than 50 objections on the Babergh and Mid Suffolk planning portal with residents claiming the pub could be saved.

Nicola Meekings of Cockfield, comments: “There are opportunities which have not been grasped by the current management.

"The opening hours are not regular, there is an unwelcome atmosphere and no attempts at diversification have been made.

“Previous landlords have encouraged and retained darts, pool, football teams, both home, away and spectators, crib, karaoke and music nights, weekly bingo.”

Nicola Lilley of Cockfield, comments: “As the daughter of the landlady of The Five Bells, Rattlesden, I know first hand the struggles and successes of pub ownership.With the right management, I see no reason why this business would fail given the residential population surrounding it and all the new homes being built.

Yes, the global pandemic is affecting business, but the pub was rarely open long before the pandemic came about.

Ivan Green, of Cockfield, comments: “I have used this pub on a regular basis for over 35 years and up until the last few years it was well supported by the village, including four football teams, two dart teams, a pool team, a crib team and bingo along with regular music nights plus food.”

West Suffolk CAMRA, which supports local pubs, has also objected commenting that it feels the pub has “not reached a natural end” and could return with "effective management" and a "good business plan".

Mr and Mrs East, who also have permission planning permission for five houses at the rear of the pub, said they have been “hurt” by the comments.

“We have run this pub for four years as tenants and then five as owners,” said Mr East.

We have tried everything to make it work but it has not been supported by the local community, who we have also tried to involve in arranging events.

"The pavilion nearby being given a licence by the council to sell alcohol did not help either.

“People have accused us of running it down deliberately. This is not the case - it has always been kept to the highest standards.

“Even before Covid, it was unviable and we had to subsidise the business using our savings. Our accountant asked two years ago why we were still doing it as it was losing money. All pubs are."

Cockfield Parish Council will discuss the application on November 26. Babergh Council will make a decision by December 29.

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