A BLACKBURN restaurant owner has outbid Marco Pierre White to takeover a Ribble Valley pub.

Earlier this year it was revealed the celebrity chef was planning to turn the centuries-old Assheton Arms, in Downham, into a traditional public house serving real ales and a la carte British food.

But the world-renowned chef failed in the takeover bid and the historic pub’s lease was snapped up by the Seafood Pub Company three days before Christmas.

The company already runs the Oyster and Otter in Feniscowles.

Managing director Jocelyn Neve, 26, said she plans to completely revamp the site and has drafted in former Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge chef Anthony Shirley to cook modern British food with an emphasis on fresh seafood.

In total, around 40 new posts could be created.

Mis Neve said: “We have already ripped the kitchen out.

We are open for business but we will start a fuller refurbishment and double the size of the restaurant in the new year.

“It is looking a bit tired at the moment but we will work our magic on it while keeping the character and charm.

"From the second floor there are absolutely beautiful views of Pendle Hill and we want to make sure that our customers are able to enjoy them whilst enjoying good food.”

The pub at the top of the village, opposite St Leonard’s Church, was first used as a public house in the 19th century, when it was known as the Cross Keys.

It changed its name a number of times before becoming The Assheton Arms in the 1950s, when it was named after Conservative politician Ralph Assheton.

He had previously served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and was later given the peerage of Baron Clitheroe of Downham.

The pub is still owned by the Assheton family.

Landlord David Busby had run the pub for the last 28 years with his wife Wendy, but the couple decided to retire, forcing the sale of the property.