A CAMPAIGN to save a popular community pub in Exeter from the bulldozers is gathering momentum.
Protestors took to the streets with banners outside the Queen's Head in Pinhoe Road to garner further public support for their battle to stop the 82-year-old venue being replaced by a Farm Foods frozen store.
The owner, Spirit Pub Company, recently sold the pub to Farm Foods in a silent auction. However, the current landlords, who say they were narrowly outbid, feel they could take over the pub and run it as a viable community facility.
A planning application has been submitted to Exeter City Council, but campaigners said they were prepared to fight to the bitter end to save the pub.
Becky Hicks, who works at the pub and is helping to organise the campaign, said: "We are pressing on with the petitions and so far have 18 pages worth of signatures but they are still being collected.
"People are also writing letters to the planning department to object as we only have until December 27 to do this.
"Hopefully we will get enough people to object that they take notice us. We are trying to galvanise people and the protest we did on Saturday certainly helped.
"We were outside with banners and there was a lot of chanting with things like 'save our pub' and 'help save 82 years and history and memories'. A lot of people came down to the pub to show their support and the place was packed. There were a lot of people beeping horns and it was really good.
"I am full of hope anyway and someone has to speak out about it. I will fight to the bitter end. To be honest if it does become a frozen food store I don't think a lot of people will shop in it. This place has been a lot of people's local for more than 40 years. I cannot believe they are trying to claim it is not a viable business when it is.
"This is not just a pub – it is like the local community hall." A spokesman for the Spirit Pub Company said: "Following a review of our pub estate the Queens Head Hotel was marketed for sale.
"We have now exchanged unconditional contracts after receiving best and final offers for the site. We are unable to comment on future plans for the site following the sale."
In its planning application, a spokesman for Farm Foods wrote: "The loss of a local community amenity like a public house is not desirable. Old pubs of this type are no longer viable. Increasing competition from cheap booze in supermarkets, the smoking ban, and more modern drinking outlets have all drawn away the core customer base.
"Nobody likes to see the closure of a pub, unless it has been a nuisance to its neighbours.
"But there is a change within planning guidelines which places more emphasis on sustainability and that now includes taking future social and economic issues into consideration.
"The social and economic loss of a pub within this centre is likely to be more than off-set by the provision of a new frozen food discounter."
A decision on the application will be made by the city council's planning committee.