Sat, 08 Apr 2017
HAMSTEAD Marshall villagers are celebrating this week after fresh plans to convert their local pub into housing were refused.
An independent report vindicated the residents’ belief that the White Hart Inn could still prove viable.
The owner, Stella Coulthurst, had sought permission to convert the building into four homes with car parking.
The application was almost identical to one submitted – and refused – in April 2016.
In submitting the renewed application, Ms Coutlhurst had argued a demonstrable “lack of interest and no offers reflecting a realistic price for the leasehold” since then.
Consequently, the 16th-century inn has been shut since September 11, 2015.
Meanwhile, villagers set up a campaign to save their local watering hole, supported by Newbury MP Richard Benyon, Lib Dem Judith Bunting and the Campaign for Real Ale.
Hamstead Marshall Parish Council, too, insisted the pub was potentially viable given the right circumstances, citing the results of two, separate financial studies carried out last year.
In addition there were 142 formal objections to the application from members of the public.
The pub was recognised by West Berkshire Council as an ‘asset of community value’ last year.
An independent report, commissioned by planners, agreed with the previous assessments and a planning officer’s report stated: “The potential profit is sufficient to mean a long leasehold or a freehold, offered at the right price, does mean the public house could continue to be profitable after three years’ settled trading condition.
“These assumptions are made notwithstanding the rural location, the local competition and the general impact on pub trading in recent years due to supermarket low prices of beverages.”
The officer’s report added: “The corollary of this, of course, is the fact that so many public houses have closed over recent years that competition is now receding.
“For example, the Lord Lyon in Stockcross has recently closed with permission to convert to nine flats.”
Permission was duly refused a second time by West Berkshire planners.
Parish council chairman John Handy said: “Obviously we’re very pleased. We’ve worked very hard to try to keep this pub for the village and to show it is potentially viable.
“We feel vindicated. There are some people who have expressed an interest and we’re encouraging them to approach the owner.”
The issue was due to be discussed at a meeting last night (Wednesday) and Mr Handy said: “For the moment we’re watching and waiting because there is still the possibility of an appeal against the decision.”