Co-op remains tight lipped over rumours it is moving into the pub in Whitemans Green.
The supermarket chain has applied for a takeaway drinks licence at the address where the Ship Inn pub used to sit.
And residents are already rallying in a bid to stop ‘The Ship from sinking’.
The pub was sold in May this year and the new owners have been given planning permission for an extension to the kitchen and demolition of an outbuilding. There have been builders on site since the sale.
Resident Jo Roche, of Crouchlands, Whitemans Green, said residents hoped another pub would open at the site, but they were concerned by the Co-op’s new application.
She said a few of the regulars had visited the new owners at their other pub in Lingfield and been advised it would re-open in November.
Jo said: “You can imagine our shock when notice of the licence application went up on Thursday evening.
“Rumours had been circulating for a while, but rumours are just that and we had been hoping that the landlord’s reassurances held good.”
Jo added that Wealden Stores, just around the corner from the pub, has been trading for more than 100 years.
She said 30 or 40 years ago residents bought shares of the company in order to keep it in business for the benefit of the community.
She said: “The thought that one of the big supermarkets can just come along and effectively land on top of this small independent retailer is beyond belief.”
The village’s Neighbourhood Plan cannot protect the site from a change of use because Government legislation allows a change of use from a pub to a shop for a single period of up to two years before planning permission is needed.
Jo said: “So, years of work, input from the whole community, background evidence, questionnaires and a referendum count for nothing when you are the Co-op and in one fell swoop can change the entire character of a village.”
A spokesperson for The Co-operative Food said: “Over the coming years our main focus will be to develop our existing convenience store estate.
“We are aware of a site in Cuckfield, but cannot comment on specific properties at this time. ”
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