Thu, 18 Jan 2018
VILLAGERS are gearing up for round three of the battle to save their local pub.
The owner of The White Hart in Hamstead Marshall, Stella Coulthurst, has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate after West Berkshire Council twice turned down her applications to convert the pub into houses.
The proposals to turn the 18th-century inn, which has been shut since September 11, 2015, into four houses with associated parking have provoked huge anger in the small West Berkshire village.
A campaign group, Save The White Hart, has been actively opposing the change of use since the first application was submitted early in 2016 and has gained support from Newbury MP Richard Benyon, Lib Dem Judith Bunting and the West Berkshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
John Handy, who is part of the campaign team, said: “A pub in a village, especially one which is strung out and scattered like Hamstead Marshall, is essential for local people to come together and integrate.
“If there isn’t that, then there is a good chance that villagers will seldom meet, leading to a fragmented community that is less able to support one another.”
Over the past year, the campaign group has successfully fought to have the pub designated an Asset of Community Value and for it to have a local listing as a Heritage Asset.
Susanna Aromando, who lives in the village and whose parents ran The White Hart for 22 years until their retirement in 2004, said: “The White Hart has always been the hub of the community, raised lots of money for charity and supported our local economy.
“Once this pub has gone, it’s gone forever.
“With so many pubs closing by stealth, particularly in the countryside, soon there will be few left to fight for.”
She said that a number of people had come forward with offers to take on the pub, but they have not been able to come to an agreement with Ms Coulthurst.
The second application was turned down in April 2017 after an independent report, commissioned by West Berkshire Council planning department, agreed with previous assessments that a pub in that location could be viable.
The Planning Inspectorate deadline for commenting on the appeal is Friday, January 19, and more details can be found at www.savethewhitehart.org
Ms Coulthurst did not respond to a request from the Newbury Weekly News for a comment by the time the paper went to press.