Appeal against decision to block plans to convert village pub into housing is dismissed by inspector

Melton borough councillor Leigh Higgins outside The Fox Inn at Thorpe Satchville and villagers who want to see it reopen as a viable business EMN-180901-153203001
Melton borough councillor Leigh Higgins outside The Fox Inn at Thorpe Satchville and villagers who want to see it reopen as a viable business EMN-180901-153203001
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A planning inspector has dismissed an appeal against Melton Council’s decision to refuse permission for a village pub to be converted into housing.

Campaigners at Thorpe Satchville have twice successfully fought against proposals to change the use of the Fox Inn because they say it is a vital community asset.

After the council’s most recent decision to block conversion plans at the pub, last March, its owners appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate on the grounds that it was no longer viable as a public house.

But inspector Elaine Benson said she was not convinced the property was marketed extensively enough as a business after adverts attracted 13 viewings when it was put up for sale at a freehold price of £285,000.

She said it was more important to retain the pub, which has been closed since October 2014, as a community asset, in line with national planning guidance, and that residential properties proposed on the site would not be sustainable.

In her report, Ms Benson, states: “The proposed change of use would lead to additional housing and would contribute towards the local economy in a different way to the pub use.

“However, these factors would not outweigh the harm to the community arising from the loss of the pub and the resulting conflict with local plan policy. “Balancing all of these factors together, I conclude that the appeal proposal does not amount to sustainable development.

Melton Council deputy leader, Councillor Leigh Higgins, welcomed the decision and said it could help to protect other local pubs from being re-developed.

He said: “This has always been about the wider public interest of keeping pubs open and viable across our borough.

“If the Fox was allowed to close in the circumstances then all pubs were at risk and this was something that concerned a great number of people, including CAMRA.

“The inspector sent a very clear and strong message that pub doors cannot simply be closed and converted to housing.

“There must be a genuine attempt to keep a viable commercial business operating otherwise, if pubs are no longer viable, then this has to be supported by evidence which includes that the marketing price was reasonable.”

Councillor Higgins said everyone recognised that the site required investment if the pub was to re-open.

He added: “I want to emphasise that my door is always open to discuss realistic proposals which aim to bring the pub back in to use on the site and I would therefore invite the landowner, or any future landowner, to meet with me and with officers to see what the art of the possible is.

“I will do all I can to help support all stakeholders and I am sure from my many extensive conversations with the local community that a scheme which benefits all sides can be found if we put our mind to it.”