Housing bid refused for Caston pub

A VILLAGE pub has been given a lifeline after councillors on Monday refused an application for it to be turned into housing.

A VILLAGE pub has been given a lifeline after councillors on Monday refused an application for it to be turned into housing.

Shropham-based Chapel Partners had applied to Breckland Council for permission to turn the Red Lion, in Caston, near Watton, into a three-bedroom home.

The grade II listed pub has been shut for the past two years and news of the housing plans sparked significant local objection - with a 75-signature petition and five letters from objectors sent to the council.

But despite this planning officers had recommended it should be given the green light because the applicant had show evidence of trying to market the pub for at least 12 months. The council had also received three letters in support of the plans.

However at Monday's meeting of Breckland's development control committee, councillors went against the recommendation and refused the application.

During the meeting Caston parish councillor Peter Chapman told the committee that Caston was 'faced with having the very heart of our village ripped out.'

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He said the Red Lion occupied a 'commanding site' in the village overlooking the village green and that along with the church it created a picture of 'the rural ideal.'

'With the right landlord and management Caston Red Lion would thrive again,' he added.

Committee chairman Elizabeth Gould said: 'We want to try and help this village keep its pub.'

Marion Chapman-Allen said: 'My concern is traditional rural life is in decline. It is a great pity this pub has been closed.'

She used the Dabbling Duck at Great Massingham as an example of how a pub could successfully turn its fortune around,

But Peter Francis said: 'The bottom line here is sentimentally this place should not close but it has been closed for many years and nobody in the business wanted to buy it.'

He added: 'I do not want to see it close but it did close and it closed because nobody used it. Sentiment is one thing, but good business sense is another.'

The committee refused the change of use application for the Red Lion because they said they wanted to keep a pub in the village and that they did not believe the applicant had sufficiently proved that the pub could not survive.

A listed building application to allow alterations was also refused.

Anna Metcalfe, from Chapel Partners which has owned the pub for six months, said afterwards that she was disappointed at the decision.

During the meeting she told the committee that she did not like to see village pubs close but that nowadays rural pubs needed to be food-led and, with the Red Lion only having space for up to 25 covers, it was too small to be a viable food-led pub.

'This business has been marketed extensively nationally and locally for over two years and the building has lain empty for over two years,' she said.