A major pub company has revealed plans to spend more than £2m on two new town centre pubs in Stamford and in Oakham.
JD Wetherspoon has signed a contract to revamp the Mercury’s offices in Sheep Market, Stamford.
And it is planning to turn the former Royal British Legion building in High Street, Oakham into a pub.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said the chain, which has more than 800 pubs across the country, would invest £1m in its Stamford enterprise, creating about 40 jobs.
A similar amount of money would be invested into the Oakham pub.
Mr Gershon said: “We are keen to open new pubs in both Stamford and Oakham. There is still a lot to do in terms of getting to the stage of opening. However, we are certainly moving in the right direction.”
He said planning applications would be submitted in the near future but that both pubs would be in keeping with the Wetherspoon brand. They would be music-free, family friendly, serve food all day and specialise in real ales, he said.
The pubs would also feature paintings, photographs and information about the area, as well as commissioned artwork.
Mr Gershon added: “We will await the outcome of the planning process before we produce any on-site details or opening dates.”
The Mercury is now looking for alternative premises in Stamford. Its lease on the Sheep Market building expires in May. Editor Eileen Green said the Mercury would remain at the heart of the community.
“I want to reassure readers, newsagents and advertisers that the Mercury will be staying in Stamford, serving the community as it has done for the last 300 years," she said.
Colin Bell Menswear, which is in neighbouring premises in Sheep Market, is not part of the Wetherspoon deal and will continue trading as normal.
Mr Bell said: “We have been open for 25 years and we look forward to welcoming customers for many more years to come.”
The news has already prompted comments on social networking site Twitter and an online petition has been started.
Nick Pistolas, who is supporting the petition, said: “Stamford has some great pubs an has a unique atmosphere. This will suffer if they open and has happened in countless locations in the last. Keep Stamford independent!”
Phil Dobbs said: “If the town council let Wetherspoons in easily, it’ll have a massive impact on our town centre pubs. 40 jobs created is great, but at the expense of how many others when Wetherspoons’ bin-end drinks undercut our independent landlords’ businesses?”
And Dan Martin added: “Stamford is known for it’s local high quality beers. There’s no demand or need for a Wetherspoons that will run to the detriment of other pubs.”
Robin Gray said: “We are a small, independent focused town. we do not need or want a wetherspoons pub in town. Our local pubs are suffering enough. Nobody will be able to compete with there prices. This may create 40 jobs, but it will put many more out of work when our local pubs are forced to close.”