Popular Ely pub may never re-open

Popular and much loved Ely pub, The Fountain, may never re-open. Its owner has applied to convert it to a house. 

Popular and much loved Ely pub, The Fountain, may never re-open. Its owner has applied to convert it to a house. - Credit: The Fountain

Ely could lose one of its favourite pubs if permission to convert it to a house is given by East Cambs planners.  

John Borland of The Fountain in Silver Street has applied for change of use just weeks after warning how the coronavirus pandemic has ripped the heart out of British pubs.  

The Grade II listed pub on the corner of Barton Square and Silver Street was built in 1830 as a drinking house –and over the years has been modernised and improved.  

The most recent refurbishments were carried out in 2002 when an extension was added.  

But now owner John Borland wants to call time – permanently – describing the proposed change of use as having “no effect on the significance of the asset”. 

He told planners: “It will remain an interesting and characterful building within the conservation area and the change of use will ensure its future survival.” 

Before Christmas he wrote on the pub’s Facebook page of how he opened the Fountain in 1996 and spoke of the “unprecedented crisis” facing his industry. 

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"Like everyone in 2020, we have had to rapidly adapt, but, with trade down and restrictions changing so often, financial support from the government needs to be much, much better, particularly in December,” he wrote. 

“If nothing happens, we all lose out. If pubs shut, jobs will be lost, friendships and mental health will suffer, and an already struggling economy will be further damaged. Boris, Rishi, Lucy - we need your help, and we need it now.” 

The Fountain

Plans to convert the Fountain pub in Silver Street to a house have been submitted to east Cambs planners. There has been a drinking 'hole' here since 1830 - Credit: The Fountain

He pleaded for those wanting to “help save pubs up and down the country” to share his message and to contact their local MP. 

He wrote: “Pubs have endured for centuries because their role is about more than serving a drink. 

“Pubs are the cornerstone of communities in the U.K., a place where people come to enjoy their hobbies, organise events for their local area, and mark special occasions.  

“They are vital to mental health, a place people can come to be around others, unwind after some hard work, or celebrate with friends.” 

Pubs, he wrote, are the bedrock of local economies, providing £23bn in value add to the economy every year, and employing nearly 1m people a year, many of whom are under 25. 

He added: “If the walls of the Fountain could talk, they’d provide an odyssey.”