Campaigners win victory in battle to revive village pub
- Credit: Google
Villagers will have a chance to revive their local pub after a bid to turn it into a house was rejected for the second time.
David Wells, owner of the White Hart Inn in Foulden, near Swaffham, had in August 2020 submitted a plan to Breckland District Council to convert the pub, which had been closed since March 2019. It had also offered bed and breakfast accommodation before its closure.
But the council’s planning officers turned the bid down, citing “the loss of a community facility” and “insufficient marketing evidence to demonstrate the lack of viability of the pub”. The decision led Mr Wells to launch an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate - which has now issued its own rejection.
A local action group - the White Hart Inn Community Benefit Society - which is seeking to purchase the building and re-open it as a pub, welcomed the verdict.
In a statement it said: "It’s now time to ramp up our fundraising efforts, engage with residents, and open up dialogue with the owner in an effort to get the White Hart Inn open again."
According to the Inspectorate’s report, Mr Wells considered Foulden, with an estimated population of around 448 people, to be too small to sustain either a wet or dry-led pub.
Profit and loss accounts examined by inspector Rebecca Norman showed that from 2015 to 2019, there was a consistent loss of between around £30,000 and £39,600 each year.
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But Ms Norman said that certain details were missing from the accounts, and the information was unaudited.
She added that she had been presented with “contrasting figures” from the White Hart Inn Community Benefit Society.
While “full accounts to support these figures” had also not been provided by the society, Ms Norman said there was a large variation between their figures and those provided by the pub, meaning that she had been able to “definitively conclude” that the public house was operating at a significant loss and would be unviable to continue operating.
The society had used a national valuer rather than somebody with local knowledge to get their statistics, but Ms Norman said she had “been presented with little evidence to suggest that this would mean that their alternative valuations were not reasonable”.
A business and benefit plan, drawn up by the society, was also shown to Ms Norman, which she said “goes into some detail about the potential for the running of the public house, incorporating a business model and future options which suggests that there is some merit to their interest in taking the business forward”.
Though the inspector admitted that the pub was “within a rural area which appears to have limited public transport options” there was nevertheless “a good level of passing trade, albeit by private car or agricultural workers”.