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West Berkshire Council responds to Hamstead Marshall pub petition

White Hart 'treated as closed'

Charlie Masters

Charlie Masters

charlie.masters@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

07964 444701

West Berkshire Council responds to Hamstead Norreys pub petition

West Berkshire Council has responded to a petition calling for financial assistance for Hamstead Marshall's White Hart Inn.

The pub has been unable to secure a small business grant. This funding has kept many pubs financially afloat through the lockdown, which has had a negative impact upon the country's hospitality industry.

The owners of the inn have launched a petition, urging locals to sign to support any future application for grant funding.

West Berkshire Council has set out its rationale for not providing a grant in this case.

Executive member for internal governance Joanne Stewart said: "We will always do our very best to help businesses and have been as generous as possible in this case.

"However, the guidance provided by Government is quite clear in regards to this matter in that businesses must be trading and open to the general public on March 11, 2020, in order to qualify.

"The White Hart pub was closed on December 19, 2020, and was not due to reopen until March 27, 2020, but unfortunately could not do so due to the Covid pandemic.

"For this reason, we were unable to process a grant for the pub.

"However, despite the pub not opening, the council has awarded a 33 per cent retail discount from March 27, 2020 to March 31, 2020 and 100 per cent retail discount since April 1."

Pub owner Stella Coulthurst said: "The White Hart Inn continues to await – and chase – West Berkshire Council's response to a number of queries, some of which the council has declined to address since October last year.

"Most importantly, we have asked how the council can view the pub as closed – so that it withdrew discounts that pubs are entitled to receive on their business rates in October last year – and, at the same time, be open – so that the rates-free period when it closed did not begin to run.

"Instead, a great big rates bill – bigger than ever – rolled in.

"It can be open or shut, not both.

"Quite obviously, The White Hart Inn can only trade as a pub, its 2015 application for change of use having been firmly, if illogically, rejected by the council.

"Ordinarily, then, it should have any and all benefits offered to pubs.

"The council's curious self-serving treatment goes to the heart of its decision to refuse to pass on the grant from Government to which The White Hart Inn is entitled and for which it demonstrably passes, and has passed every day since 2011, the key test that it is liable for the rates.

"No one else is.

"We have again asked the council to come back to us after they comprehensively missed the deadline for replies.

"Our thanks to the several hundred people who signed our petition to be paid our grant."

The White Hart has announced that it is reopening on July 4.

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