Future fate of pub still under debate

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @BerenCross

THE future of the True Heart inn at Bishopstone is still uncertain as the owner has not ruled out the idea of selling it off to Arkell’s Brewery.

The pub has been vacant since 2009, when proprietor Mandy Hickton decided to move on after a family bereavement.

Since then, several ideas have been floated by owner John Jones to get the pub re-opened or used for residential property but nothing, as yet, has come off.

Mr Jones attended a public meeting at Bishopstone Parish Council on March 3, when he revealed plans he and his wife had for the site.

There was public opposition to the idea to build two detached houses on the car park at the rear of the property and use the proceeds to extend and refurbish the True Heart.

The main issue was the size of the car park with the two properties at the rear.

Mr Jones, 73, who has owned the pub since the mid-1990s, is keen to retain the pub as a free house should it be reopened, but could not rule out the prospect of an agreement with Arkell’s.

He said: “They are interested, but I don’t know what their intentions are. There has been an offer.

“There was an offer made about three years ago, but it was later cancelled. A further offer has been made, but it’s less than the original. That was made about six months ago, but I would still be open to proceeding.”

Arkell’s owns The Royal Oak, which stands to the rear of the True Heart’s car park.

Brewery director George Arkell said: “We are always looking for opportunities in and around Swindon and the True Heart is certainly in a fantastic village.”

Mr Jones’s one concern if Arkell’s was to take the pub off his hands would be the lack of a traditional free house in Bishopstone, which he sees as odd in a village so small. He said: “They may well develop it because one of the problems they have got is the access, as far as deliveries and draymen go, is very tight and difficult for the Royal Oak.

“There is currently the one tied house in the village, but there would eventually be two tied houses, which seems very odd for a small village.

“We are certainly considering their interest. I just feel the village would benefit from the True Heart reopening as a free house.

“It would help to know what their feelings are.”

Mr Jones and his architect, Mike Fowler, of Fowler Architecture and Planning, have plans to discuss their ideas on the redevelopment of the pub in the coming weeks.

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