PLANS for a care home on the site of a derelict, crime-ridden pub have been halted because of Kirklees Council arrogance, it was claimed today.
The council has been accused of standing in the way of a scheme which would get rid of the former Little John pub in Bradley and of seeking a fee to change its use.
John Cameron, from the property arm of Admiral Taverns, is trying to sell the pub.
The Keldregate pub has lain derelict since it was closed in June, 2006, after police said it had become a centre for anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and violence.
Kirklees owns the freehold, but Admiral holds a 950-year lease, which includes a covenant insisting the land is used for a pub.
Mr Cameron – who says Admiral is to take legal action against Kirklees – says the council is standing in the way of the land being sold to a developer company, who want to build a care home on the site.
He said: “Kirklees has said Admiral can buy the freehold for £25,000 or change the covenant to allow non-pub use for £16,000.
“A reasonable sum would be a couple of thousand pounds. It seems remarkable that the council are being unhelpful, high-handed, and arrogant.
“Maybe the council are just taking a harsh commercial view, but it seems mad.”
Mr Cameron believes a new care home would be better than a derelict pub.
He said: “A care home would benefit the community and provide long-term jobs. It would be 180 degrees from what is on the site now.
“If the council doesn’t change its attitude the Little John will just sit there being vandalised.”
He added that there was no hope of re-opening a pub on the site.
Mr Cameron said: “It’s impossible. Refurbishment would cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“There’s no demand for Little John-style estate pubs. If it was to reopen as a pub, it would fail.”
But Clr Ken Smith, who represents the area on Kirklees, doesn’t believe a care home is the best option.
He said: “My plan for a long time has been to get a health centre on the site as we only have two GP practices in Ashbrow ward and they’re both on the other side of it.
“A care home is not as good a community use for the site.”
But the Labour man thinks that Kirklees Primary Care Trust will have to show more urgency if a health centre is to get the go-ahead.
Clr Smith said: “I’ve been talking to the trust for three years and have had promises of a health centre from them.
“But they are very slothful; they can’t see an opportunity when it hits them in the face.”
Clr Smith doesn’t agree with Mr Cameron that Kirklees is being unreasonable in asking for up to £25,000 to allow a sale to go through.
He said: “The land was advertised six months ago for £850,000, so the amount the council is asking for is a drop in the ocean. It seems fairly cheap to me.”
A council spokesman said: “We are in discussions with Admiral Taverns in relation to this site and will continue to discuss those issues with them.”
The Little John has had a troubled history.
In five months in 2006 there were 34 reported incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour in and around the pub, the worst figure in Kirklees.
The Little John had eight landlords between 2002 and May, 2006.
That month two men with criminal records for violence, anti-social behaviour and deception unofficially took over as ‘landlords’.
One of the men was later arrested for hiding a man wanted by police in the pub.
There was an arson attack at the pub in July, 2006, just after it closed.
In February last year Kirklees revoked the Little John’s licence.