A village pub which closed last year, sparking a community-driven campaign to save it, is still facing an uncertain future despite councillors rejecting a bid to turn it into residential use.
Villager Howard Mitchell-Borts, representing a committee of five residents battling to save The Fox in Thorpe Satchville, told Melton Council’s planning committee: “The Fox has been a viable business in the past. We can demonstrate a local demand for the pub and, in addition, we believe that could be enhanced further by attracting customers from a wider area.
“The Fox could be a viable business in the future. We’re willing to support efforts to establish a working pub and the committee is willing to work with the current or future pub owners to bring about a positive future for The Fox. We therefore oppose its change of use.”
Twyford and Thorpe Satchville Parish Council and ward councillor Leigh Higgins also strongly objected to the plans to convert the pub into a residential property.
Applicant Celia Frew, of John O’Gaunt Brewing Company Limited, had asked the committee to defer the change of use application, so that councillors could look around inside the Main Street property to see how much work needed to be done, but they refused her request.
She said: “Since the pub’s closure in October we’ve been more than accommodating to the residents’ committee. We’ve given them the option of a lease but the group finally admitted they’re not willing to risk their money.”
Mrs Frew said initial contact had been made with interested parties but nothing further had materialised.
But most councillors felt there hadn’t been sufficient marketing of the pub and that the case hadn’t been proven that there was no longer a demand for a pub.
Councillor Pat Cumbers said: “I don’t think every effort has been made yet to show it’s not possible for it to continue as a pub. I think there are possibilities and the positives outweigh the negatives if a pub can continue.”
Councillor Margaret Glancy added: “This pub has always been a very good business in the past. I think it’s a marvellous asset for the pub which should not be removed.”
Councillor Janet Simpson also voiced her support for the pub to remain. She said: “I think pubs in villages are very important. The Fox has been viable in the past and done very well.”
The committee decided to refuse the application on grounds that it would ‘result in the loss of a valuable community facility
for residents of Thorpe Satchville to the detriment of the life of the community’ adding that insufficient information had been submitted to support the change of use.
The council’s decision notice added: “The business has not been fully subjected to the business market, nor has it been marketed for a sufficient period of time or to the specific sector.
“The proposal would, if approved, also result in residential development in an unsustainable village location where there are limited local amenities, facilities and jobs and where future residents are likely to depend on the use of the car.”
Speaking to the Melton Times after the meeting Mr Mitchell-Borts said: “We’d like it to be amicable with the pub owners, we’re not against them.
“We haven’t got enough money to buy the pub outright but there are a couple of people who may be interested and there are possibilities.”