Tue, 19 Jan 2021
PARISH councillors have responded angrily to wild accusations on social media surrounding a farm shop project.
At the heart of the row is a proposal by the licensee of The Great Shefford pub, Joshua Khan, for a farm shop to be created in the car park, as reported by this newspaper last October.
Mr Khan said he hoped that it will allow the pub to diversify, while providing an outlet for local farmers and artisans to sell their produce.
The proposals have generated more than 60 letters from residents, divided almost equally between supporters and objectors.
But some posts on social media – in particular on the village Facebook page – have infuriated the parish council.
At a recent meeting, chairman Steve Ackrill said the council’s views on the pub and its ancillary projects had been completely misrepresented.
He added: “Some of the comments on Facebook were borderline accusing the parish council of bribery.”
Vice chairwoman Liz Bell agreed and declared that “anyone who insinuates the parish council is corrupt is monumentally out of order”.
The council agreed to write a formal complaint to the administrator of the Facebook group who, the meeting was told, had ‘liked’ the offending posts rather than deleting them.
Opponents of the project have expressed concern it could negatively impact the village shop and post office and create traffic problems.
But speaking to the Newbury Weekly News last September, Mr Khan said: “We would never seek to harm another local business, but there are no farm shops for miles around.
“My team and I, with the ongoing support from the village, have built a premium country pub of which we can all be proud.
“We have taken the site and transformed it and we’ve re-established it as a centre for the community, but these are difficult times for the trade.
“I’ve invested a lot of money and if there’s another lockdown I could lose my investment.
“I must diversify to survive.”
He added: “I want to do good things for the community and I think that public opinion is with me.
“I just want to give something back to the village and to protect my business at the same time.
“I’m offering to do these things out of my own pocket.
“Hopefully it would set an example that other people and businesses might want to follow and it could spread outwards who knows, maybe even to other villages.”
To view the application, visit the West Berkshire Council planning website and enter the reference 20/02245/FUL.