Sun, 27 Sept 2020
The latest plans to convert the Winterbourne Arms pub has attracted objections from more than 70 villagers.
Owner Nicholas Roffe submitted an application to West Berkshire Council at the end of August to convert the premises into two dwellings.
An earlier bid to convert the pub failed in January when the Planning Inspectorate ruled against Mr Roffe.
This was regarded as a victory by those Winterbourne villagers who had always opposed the loss of the pub.
Mr Roffe acquired the Winterbourne Arms in 2018 and the previous owner had promised that it would reopen.
In an effort to placate local people, the owner has now made provision for a smaller pub on the site, adjacent to new houses, marking a change from previous applications which envisaged a purely residential development.
Despite the concession, almost 80 villagers have lodged their objections to the scheme.
Among those protesting the plans is Winterbourne Parish Council chairwoman Jill Hoblin, an organiser of the Save The Winterbourne Arms campaign.
Mrs Hoblin said "At no point during the preparation or submission of the planning application did the applicant reach out to share his plans with Winterbourne Parish.
"Bearing in mind the strength of feeling of the parish, the significant support that we had, both locally and from further afield, the active social media campaign we ran for the previous change of use application, we find this disappointing.
"Creating a tiny drinking pub for local use is not a serious attempt to maintain an idyllic well-appointed pub in the heart of our village. It raises suspicions about the true motives of the applicant."
Many villagers question the developer's motives, alleging that the pub will simply be converted into another dwelling if and when the business fails.
Simon Fraser said: "The revised plans are ridiculous from the perspective of over-development and creating a micro-pub that is most likely to be unviable.
"One might suspect this is a deliberate ploy to enable a further conversion.
"The size of the proposed micro-pub is not big enough to facilitate a village meeting – which the current one could – or accommodate a coach-ful of pre-theatre diners or race-goers, as happened previously.
"The reduction in parking spaces is unviable and will cause congestion and an increased risk of accidents in the village.
"There is already insufficient parking in the village and the road is too narrow to safely facilitate on-street parking without blocking the road, especially for large vehicles."
Jack Diamond states: "The present plans greatly increase the living accommodation and the potential value of the site by sucking the life and potential of the pub, by decreasing its size by over 40 per cent.
"We all acknowledge that village pubs, as pure drinking establishments, are no longer viable.
"This is an attempt to create a pub which will fail as a business within a year.
"After that, there will be a new planning application to join the pub area with the four-bedroomed apartment.
"This does not address the needs of the population of Winterbourne to have a central site for village events and interaction."
The full application – including all objection letters – can be found here.