Pub at centre of Novichok incident to re-open later this year
The work to decontaminate The Mill pub has been finished and it is expected to re-open in the autumn.
A pub which had been visited by a Russian ex-double agent and his daughter shortly before they fell ill with Novichok poisoning could re-open later this year.
The Mill public house in Salisbury city centre has been shut since Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed having been poisoned by the military-grade nerve agent in March.
On the afternoon they fell ill, the pair had visited the riverside pub for a drink before having a meal at the nearby Zizi’s restaurant.
The pub, which is owned by brewery Greene King, has been undergoing decontamination led by staff from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Defra said the decontamination work has now been completed and the site has been handed back to Greene King for refurbishment and maintenance work over the summer.
A Defra spokesperson said: “The thorough work to decontaminate The Mill pub in Salisbury has been successfully completed and we have handed the site back to Wiltshire Council, who have in turn passed it back to the owners to begin refurbishment.
“As with other sites in the South Wiltshire area affected by the incidents in March and June, government scientists have carefully examined the clean-up work and are satisfied that the pub is safe to return to public use.
“This is the sixth site to be handed back as part of the ongoing decontamination operation in the area, and it is great news that The Mill will be enjoyed by both Salisbury residents and visitors once again.”
Alistair Cunningham, chair of the South Wiltshire recovery co-ordinating group, said: “We’re delighted that The Mill has been handed back following the clean-up by specialist teams, and that it is now safe to be returned to its owners and refurbished ready for normal use.
“We look forward to the reopening of this popular city centre pub and seeing local people and visitors to the city enjoying what it has to offer; particularly its wonderful riverside setting.
“This is a positive step forward and will help the city in its recovery. Salisbury is getting back to normal even though it continues to be in an unprecedented situation.
“Local residents and visitors have not been deterred and they have shown remarkable resilience over the past few months.”
Andrea Greenwood, operations manager for the pub, said: “It’s good to get the pub back and we look forward to it being business as usual again at the heart of the Salisbury community.
“This has been a difficult few months for all of us in the area but we are pleased by this news and will now assess the extent of refurbishment work to be undertaken to get the pub back to its best.
“This is about more than just one pub and our thoughts are very much with everyone affected by events since March.
“It’s too soon to give a reopening date, but we are looking to the future and hope to be able to welcome the community back through our doors before Christmas.”
Earlier this week, Wiltshire Police said it was expected to spend more than £10 million dealing with the Novichok poisonings.
Officers from 40 other forces were called in after two major incidents were declared in Salisbury and Amesbury in the space of four months.
Mr Skripal and his daughter were attacked in March and in June, Dawn Sturgess and her partner, Charlie Rowley, fell ill. Ms Sturgess died eight days later.
It is believed they were exposed to Novichok from a perfume bottle discarded by those responsible for the attack on the Skripals.
Meanwhile, Wiltshire Police said precautionary testing of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter and airbase in Semington have confirmed no contamination has been identified.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, who is leading the multi-agency response to the incident said: “It is important to again stress that the testing forms part of the wider response to the incident and was undertaken on a precautionary basis, the air ambulance was not used to respond to the initial incident.
“We will now continue to work with a range of partner agencies to progress work at other sites in the county which still form part of this ongoing investigation.”