HOSPITALITY giant Whitbread has been less than hospitable to Redditch man Darrell Wedgbury – ordering him off land he and his family have tended for 62 years, or face legal action.
Whitbread, which bills itself as the UK’s largest hospitality company, owns the Foxlydiate pub and Premier Inn in Webheath which it wants to demolish to make way for another housing estate.
In their way is Darrell Wedgbury, a landscape gardener, who, like his father before him, has tended some two acres of land at the back and side of the pub.
No one disputes Whitbread owns the land, but the high handed actions of the multinational giant, which earlier this year sold its Costa Coffee section to Coca Cola in 2018 for £3.9billion, has stunned onlookers.
“We’ve tended this land for more than 60 years,” said Darrell.
“My father was asked to look after it by Neville Dare, who built the Foxlydiate, then the pub passed to Davenports, then Greenall Whitley and then Whitbread and we just carried on as usual.”
As well as growing fruit and vegetables the land has become a wildlife haven, with deer spotted grazing on the site.
“I haven’t heard anything from Whitbread since 2004.
“Three days before the deputy manager of the hotel came to see me and wanted my contact details but I said I wanted to see the request in writing which she didn’t provide.
“And now all of a sudden they’ve gone and pinned a nasty letter on the gate demanding I vacate the site or face legal action.”
County Councillor Robin Lunn (Lab, Redditch North), who has been campaigning to save the Foxlydiate as a pub for the local community, said: “This is absolutely outrageous, a big company like Whitbread throwing its weight around.
“If you have been tending land for a long time you have rights – they can’t just wade in, threaten people and and tell them to clear off.”
Coun Lunn has since written to Whitbread’s solicitor demanding an explanation and is awaiting a response.
A spokesman for the company, which also owns the Beefeater and Brewer’s Fayre brands as well as Premier Inns, said Whitbread had made numerous efforts to contact Mr Wedgbury including sending a letter by special delivery.
“Whitbread sent information to a number of addresses and made all reasonable efforts to correspond with Mr Wedgebury,” he said.
“The effectiveness of this process has not been helped by Mr Wedgebury not being prepared to provide any information and this is regrettable.”
Whitbread expect a planning date for the demolition and development of the Foxlydiate site sometime in October, to be heard by Bromsgrove planners.