Johnstone Castle residents insist plans to turn much-loved pub into shop would “rip the heart out of the community”

More than 1,000 people have hit out at plans to turn a treasured Johnstone pub into a convenience store, insisting the move would “rip the heart out of the community”.

The owners of the Hazel Arms have submitted proposals to Renfrewshire Council to transform the much-loved establishment into a shop with an ATM.

But members of the Johnstone Castle Tenants and Residents Association (TARA) have rallied the troops to try and get the plans thrown out.

A letter to the council opposing the move was handed out to local businesses and more than 1,000 signed copies have now been delivered to council officials.

The letter argues that closing the pub would leave Johnstone Castle with “no community spirit” as it hosts events throughout the year that bring residents together and is used by several pool and darts teams.

It also stresses the business is important to many people as a way of keeping loneliness at bay and highlights there are already two other convenience stores in the area, with a third described as unnecessary.

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Ricky Kelly, secretary of Johnstone Castle TARA, said: “We managed to get 1,000 letters signed and these will now be processed by the council.

“We wanted to get it out to as many businesses in the area as we could and get as many people as possible to sign it because closing the pub is just going to rip the heart out of Johnstone Castle.

“We feel if it goes there will be no sense of community.”

Councillor John Hood, who represents the Johnstone South ward, said: “Every person in the Castle uses this pub.

“It hosts events for Christmas, Hallowe’en and Easter and it’s one of the only places people can meet.

“There’s tons of stag nights and baby showers that get held there. It would just rip the heart out of the community.”

The Hazel Avenue pub – which has been running for about 50 years – is owned by the IONA Pub Partnership, a sister company of the Scotsman Group PLC – formally known as G1 Group.

It has been a long-standing business in Johnstone Castle and is said to be the only place available for function hire in the area.

Campaigners have also claimed congestion can be bad around the pub at certain times of day and there are fears a new store could make things worse.

Businesses who shared the letter with the community included Joe’s Butchers, Tasty Cafe, Castle Cafe, Avalano and the Nisa store in Hazel Avenue.

The letter was posted publicly on social media by Johnstone Castle TARA chair, Lizzy Friel.

The pub is right at the heart of the community – as support from 1000 locals shows
(Image: Andrew Neil)

It states: “The Hazel Arms hosts numerous charity and community events throughout the year, bringing the residents of Johnstone Castle and further afield together.

“This would remove the only social establishment in the area. The Hazel Arms is seen by regulars as a place to go to combat loneliness and isolation. A large number of older people rely on it for company.

“Johnstone Castle already has two convenience stores, a third one is in no way needed.”

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The Scotsman Group PLC has been approached for comment.

Daily Record – Paisley