Pub giant Wetherspoon pulls out of Leven as town ‘too small’

JD Wetherspoon bought the old Three Ways Inn, but is now planning to sell it again.
JD Wetherspoon bought the old Three Ways Inn, but is now planning to sell it again.

Fears have been raised about the demise of the town centre after pub giant JD Wetherspoon confirmed its plans for Leven are dead in the water.

The announcement came just days after the Clydesdale bank confirmed it would be shutting down its branch on the high street.

North Street is in need of regeneration

North Street is in need of regeneration

Wetherspoon had been planning to revamp the former Threeways Inn on North Street – which has fallen into disrepair.

However, spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Mail the company had decided against developing in Leven because it was “too small”.

“Wetherspoon has decided against developing its site in Leven and has therefore put the property on the market,” he said.

The building – which had lain empty for seven years before being bought by Wetherspoon in May 2015 - goes up for auction on February 7.

The Clydesdale will be closed.

The Clydesdale will be closed.

The blow comes as the Clydesdale Bank announced the closure of its Durie Street branch as part of a tranche of 79 branch closures across the UK

The Mail understands there are seven staff at the branch and all face an uncertain future.

A statement from Clydesdale Bank said staff would “be at risk of redundancy and subject to our redeployment process”.

The bank will shut its doors on June 2, forcing customers to use the nearest branches available in St Andrews or Glenrothes.

Reacting to Wetherspoon’s announcement, Levenmouth councillor Tom Adams said he was shocked.

“I’m really surprised and quite disappointed, I was looking forward to seeing them open. I don’t know what changed their mind, considering they went as far as getting a licence for the place.

“It’s strange to say that Leven is too small, as it’s about the same size as Arbroath, which has quite a big Wetherspoon.

“I think a lot of people will be disappointed. It would have been a real boost to the night time economy. Pubs like Wetherspoon bring people into the town.

“But this is a blow for Leven and the night-time economy of the area.”

He added: “And with the Clydesdale closing, I would say this is terrible news. For me, if I was a member of the Clydesdale Bank, I’d be taking my custom elsewhere after this.

“They’re just picking on a small branch, it’s a drive to get everyone online.

This certainly won’t benefit the people of Leven.”

Cllr Adams called for Leven to establish a business group similar to Kirkcaldy4All, which encouraged firms to come into the area.

Fife Council was also about to spend £1m relandscaping the Shorehead.

“Hopefully this is just a blip with these two losses to the town centre,” he said.

“We need to keep pushing with the rail link as that brings people in.”

Businessman Lee Murray, who is due to open his new nightclub – ‘Truth’ – in the former Ambassadeur snooker Club in Northn Street in March said Wetherspoon had obviously made a business decision and “that’s up to them.”

He added: “From a local business point of view some folk will be quite happy, but from the bigger point of view, it can be good to have more establishments.

“Hopefully someone else will take over the place, and do it up.

“Leven doesn’t revolve around Wetherspoon. The town got along fine before, and it’ll get along in future without.

“There’s pros and cons to it. On one side it’s disappointing that a big firm isn’t coming to town, but on the other hand a lot of local firms will be pleased that someone else won’t be taking a piece of the pie.”

In response to Wetherspoon believing Leven was too small, Mr Murray was more upbeat about the town’s prospects.

“Leven’s as good as anywhere. If you’re positive, then positive things happen,” he said.”

Final proposals to redevelop the Shorehead area go before the Levenmouth Area Committee today.

High street shop owners react to the news of the closures

The news of the closure of the Clydesdale branch provoked a disappointed response from shop managers on the high street.

Adnan Arshad, manager of In Touch Home and Gift, which sits next to the bank, expressed his concern that the closure would mean less shoppers walking up to that end of the street.

He added: “The street is already dead as it is. The closure is only going to make it worse. I don’t think you could go to any place on the high street and the would tell you that they are busy. There’s no one around. It is dead. There is nothing left in Leven.”

Mr Ashad expressed his disappointment at Fife Council for not helping the situation.

“Business rates are a joke,” he said. “I’m paying about £11,000 a year and I’m at the end of the street. Why do you think so many businesses have shut down?”

Mr Ali, manager of Duncan’s Hardware, noted that this had been the worst year in his 13 years on the street and believed the retail park and high business rates were damaging business on the high street.

“The bank closing is quite disappointing,” he said.

“It’s another nail in the coffin of the high street.

“It’s a shock that it’s closing. It brings people to the high street.

“If people are going to the retail park then they won’t come here.”

Meanwhile, Carol Mackie, manager of Glendale Nurseries, said that her business had used the Clydesdale branch for 20 years and the closure would be force them to go to either Glenrothes or St Andrews.

She added: “The high street is obviously declining. Every shop that shuts makes a difference.

“Fife Council are not doing anything to attract businesses.

“The retail park is the new high street, this is the back street.”