PizzaExpress, which had never been over busy in Ludlow, closed in late 2020 as the company struggled with the consequences of the pandemic. Now, Oakman Inns and Restaurants is applying to spend £2.2 million to reinstate 12 Castle Street to historic use as The George Inn public house with expanded food provision of nearly 200 covers.

This is a well thought out scheme. 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.

View from Castle Street car park entrance

Oakman Inns and Restaurants, based in Tring in Hertfordshire, aspires to have 40 pubs in its portfolio by the end of 2021 and Ludlow will be among them.

The application is a straightforward refurbishment of the building taking in an area at the back of M&Co.

The patio area will have 60 covers. There will be around 130 covers indoors with additional seating in the front bar area. This will become by far the largest drinking and dining venue in town. The planning application says:

“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.”

A seating capacity of around 200 could generate up to 100 cars. During the daytime, Oakman should make every effort to encourage people to use the park and ride service to reduce pressure on car parking and town roads.

The wall for outdoor area fronting the car park entrance will be lowered and a planter bed built. The wall from the patio to the pub will also be lowered and will be topped with wrought iron railings.

Existing patio wall
Proposed patio wall
Proposed patio

Oakman Inns and Restaurants also own 10 Castle Street, the M&Co building. It is proposing to change some of the surplus back of house areas at 10 Castle Street to provide the kitchen and additional seating. A glazed link will connect the 12 Castle Street with the new areas at No 10. This will be visually distinctive from the historic fabric, in a similar manner to the former foyer at Ludlow Assembly Rooms. Existing bricked up windows will be opened with glazing.

Location of proposed glazed link

There will be no alterations to the front elevations of either No 10 or No 12.

The £2.2 million project will create around 25 full-time equivalent jobs for bar staff, waiting staff, kitchen staff and management. That’s good news but with the significant shortage of hospitality workers in this area and across the country following exit from the EU, Oakman may perhaps have trouble filling posts.

It is proposed for the pub to operate between the hours of 08:00 – 24:00 Sunday to Thursday and 08:00 – 01:00 on Friday and Saturday. That’s in line with current permissions in the town centre but will probably not be welcomed by town centre residents.

There is no objection in principle to this application (21/04064/FUL) under planning rules, though there bound to be detailed adjustments as reports from Shropshire Council’s planning and conservation specialists are received.

The conversion work is expected to begin as soon as planning permission is granted.

Ground floor plan
Patio plan

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