Tycoon shelves youth centre scheme for pub

A businessman has shelved plans to turn a former Egon Ronay-recommended pub restaurant into an educational centre for deprived young people following a storm of local protest.

Tycoon David Ross wanted to hand the Milburn Arms Hotel in Rosedale Abbey, near Pickering, North Yorkshire, over to the Havelock Academy in Grimsby, a charity he sponsors through his London-based David Ross Foundation.

The pub ceased trading in November 2008 after nearly a year in administration.

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Following a meeting with residents, where they made it clear they objected to the change of use, Mr Ross has committed himself to trying to find a commercial use of the pub – at least until autumn.

This would allow for renewed attempts to market the pub as commercial premises and has involved the estate setting up a committee, including local representatives, to help keep it alive as a business.

However, the objectors, who have already bombarded North York Moors National Park planners with more than 80 objections to the educational centre idea, are refusing to drop their guard, despite Mr Ross's assurances.

The newly formed Friends of the Milburn Arms say the pub sits at the heart of the social and economic life of their community and its loss would devastate the successful tourism economy of Rosedale Abbey.

Local businesswoman Kate Jones said: "If Mr Ross wanted to actively demonstrate philanthropy, why not re-adjust the lease to offer an opportunity to young ambitious hoteliers?

"That would directly benefit the existing economy by creating up to 20 jobs for local people and drawing visitors from around the world, as this business has historically done."

She claimed the Milburn Arms Hotel was clearly viable as a hospitality business as indicated by the many businessmen and existing businesses who have expressed interest in buying the freehold or taking on a realistic commercial lease for the premises.

But a spokesman for the David Ross Foundation said last night: "There is no proposal to change the use of the Milburn Arms Hotel. The estate's only desire is to see the building in productive use, and contributing to the community and economy of the area.

"The Milburn Arms has been empty for over 12 months as the previous business was loss-making for many years and folded as a result, and neither the administrator of that business nor the estate has managed to secure a commercially viable offer .

"We are committed to trying to find a commercially viable use for the Milburn Arms. If that objective can be met by its operating as a successful hotel and restaurant, we would be delighted.

"The estate advised the local community several weeks ago that alternative ideas have been shelved, and invited them to participate in finding a new tenant. A working group with representatives elected by local residents is being set up for this purpose."

Mr Ross, a member of the Ross Frozen Foods family, is one of Grimsby's most famous sons and listed among the UK's 100 richest people. The Carphone Warehouse co-founder and leading Tory supporter also owns Rosedale and Westerdale grouse moors.