Oakman Inns & Restaurants Ltd completed the £1.5m freehold acquisition of Westlands House, a former care home. Oakman will immediately begin preparations for a planning application to convert the Grade 2 Listed building into a new town-centre destination and hostelry.

Chief Executive, Peter Borg-Neal explained: “I have long been an admirer of Olney and have always wanted to have an Oakman Inn in the town. We like this part of the world, and the runaway success of the Navigation Inn at Cosgrove has provided further encouragement. We’re always looking to continue to grow our reputation for providing a modern, relaxing atmosphere and a welcoming environment.”

The new Inn and restaurant will, if granted planning permission, be called The Cherry Tree after Olney's June Cherry Fair. Based at 3 High Street, the building’s original address was in fact 13 Market Place and was the home of the Hipwell family, the local Brewers and pub landlords, who lived there for almost a century. Then, as now, the building lay at the heart of the town’s activities, with the monthly farmer’s market, the weekly Thursday Market and The Olney Pancake Race attracting many visitors to this bustling and vibrant town and all taking place on its doorstep.

Oakman Inns are hoping to create up to forty new jobs in Olney, and as a winner of several “Best Employer” awards, an excellent training programme and a huge range of staff benefits, Oakman is sure to attract enquiries from those looking for a developing and sustainable career in hospitality.

Peter and his Oakman design team intend putting their proposed plans on display in a week-long exhibition where the local community can ask questions, see the proposed plans, get a feel for the design materials such as fabrics and furniture and, of course, to express their views on the proposed project. Peter told us: “We’re known and recognised for the design work and commitment we make on maintaining our portfolio of Listed buildings, while at the same time making them warmer, lighter, airier, cleaner and openhearted. The towns we serve all have this sense of history, but they also embrace the changes needed to thrive and prosper.” Full details of the planning exhibition will be announced in the next few days with location and times.

Following the acquisition of Banyers House in Royston (which opens on December 2nd) the Olney site brings the number of properties across the Oakman group up to 18. Contracts have already been exchanged on a site in Amersham and Oakman are in advanced negotiations on a number of other sites.

Hannah Milton