Planning Hearing to be on the 24th of April
With the passing of the deadline for lodging your objections with the Planning Inspectorate, we would like to thank you all for your continued support.
The window of opportunity to lodge objections fell over the festive period, this hampered preparations and proceedings which ultimately delayed our communications to some of you. A small number have apologised for missing the opportunity and we must take some of the blame sorry!
At this time, we are not sure exactly how many have lodged objections; with appeal proceedings there are no indicators other than those who have informed the group directly. Early indications are promising and we hope to demonstrate similar, if not more level of support than that shown for the Planning Application itself back in April 2017. Fingers crossed!
It has been a very busy time for the team lately with meetings after meetings, interviews, postering and publicity, communications with the Potential lessees, Experts and even being on the radio. The team have now submitted their own objections as an interested party and in this we have consolidated all the facts, data and evidence to counter the Appellant’s case for appeal. We have done the best we can and believe we have a good case that demonstrates beyond doubt that the White Hart Inn is far from being redundant.
Now we take stock and prepare for the hearing.
Again, thank you for your support.
The journey so far
As part of the plan to re coup business losses and maximise profit on the asset the owner has made two applications for ‘change of use’, both for conversion into dwellings. Each time refused by West Berkshire Planning Department for good reasons.
We have only the one pub in our village, closed now for over two years.
It once served to provide a valuable service for local businesses as a meeting venue and accommodation. But most importantly meeting the needs of locals , tourists as well as being a destination pub for quality dining, fine wine and ales.
Only a short lease has been offered to date, with terms offered on a ready to ‘open doors’ basis. We are aware that some serious investment would be needed due to the removal of key equipment and furnishings by the owner and being closed for some time now, is sadly in need of some repair and refurbishment.
To date and despite great interest the freehold has not been offered for sale.
There has been some interest in the pub over the last year by genuine potential lessees. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, none have come to fruition, due to unrealistic terms offered and a lack of willingness with the owner to negotiate.
There is plenty of potential in this beautiful and viable pub waiting to be realised. That’s not just our opinion but that of some of the prospective lessees that we’ve spoken with.
The pub’s importance to the area has been confirmed by meeting all the criteria of the local authority and achieving an Asset of Community Value (ACV) listing.
We wish the owner success in what ever venture comes next, but we don’t want to pay for this by loosing our pub forever.
Recent planning history
The current owner applied to convert the premises from a public house (A4) into four dwellings (C3) in September 2015 (15/02727/FULD). In response to this the action group formed to challenge the application and, strongly supported by the village community, was heard in front of the Western Area Planning Committee in April 2016. The application was refused by Councillors on the grounds that the public house ’may still be potentially viable in the future’ and that the ‘marketing exercise had not been adequately made’. The overall judgement and refusal concluded that, under Policy CS4 the building was not redundant and that under the NPPF and particularly SPG19 that officers considered a) ‘harm will be substantial to the community through the loss of this community asset and, b) ‘the loss of an important focal point for the village would be harmful to local social cohesion’.
In coming to this decision one Councillor remarked that they expected the campaign team to explore avenues that could result in the village taking over and running the Inn as a community venture. The group were able to state that that they were already investigating this business model, and agreed to pursue this exercise.
The White Hart was confirmed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) in July 2016.
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was served by the planning authority on the hazel tree in the Inn garden in February, 2017.
In Spring 2017, the owner submitted another planning application (17/00103/FULD), almost identical to the previous application. The planning authority had a second independent financial viability test carried out and the applicant was invited to, and given an extended period to refute it. The applicant, as far as we know did not respond to that invitation. As a result, council planning officers refused permission a second time, but with additional reasons relating to a bat survey that was not forth coming from the owner and that they had failed to permit access and provide sufficient information to enable the LPA to evaluate historicity of the structure.
Six months after this second planning application was refused the decision was appealed by the owner.
In December 2017 the White Hart was Locally Listed as a Heritage Asset.
The team remains dedicated to saving and restoring the White Hart Inn back to its role as a thriving pub at the heart of the community and safeguarding it from the perils of any developers who think nothing of how our pub is valued by this community and put profit before the wellbeing of people and our cherished heritage.
So here are a few important facts from scientific studies into the importance of our rural pub:
Pubs effectively contribute to increasing social engagement and community cohesion among residents in rural areas of England
In rural areas pubs act as essential melting pots for bringing the community together from all walks of life and studies conclude that it is yet another vital services that the countryside cannot afford to lose.
The pub has increased its importance as the main hub in the community’s infrastructure, offering support to a wide range of activities. Pubs function as physical incubators which foster engagement and involvement among the community, as well as creating jobs for local people and local suppliers.