Saturday, 21 July 2018

Village pub could re-open with B&B rooms and two new houses

THE owner of the White Lion pub in Crays Pond wants to re-open the business after

THE owner of the White Lion pub in Crays Pond wants to re-open the business after losing a planning battle to live at the premises.

Sat Sandhu wants permission to build five bed and breakfast units at the back of the pub and two five-bedroom houses on the orchard next to the car park.

He says this is the only way of making the business viable.

Mr Sandhu bought the former Greene King pub in 2013 with the intention of converting it into an Indian restaurant but changed his mind after learning this was unlikely to make a profit.

He then used the building as a home for him and his family but villagers complained to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, who said they wanted to retain a working pub. Mr Sandhu sought retrospective planning permission, arguing that the pub had been struggling for years and was no longer sustainable.

He was refused consent and then lost an appeal last year, meaning he had 12 months to leave.

Now that period has elapsed and Mr Sandhu has made the new application. He also considered applying to convert the pub into offices or warehouses.

The five guest bedrooms would be in a two-storey, red brick building to the north of the one-acre site and would include an annexe with accommodation for three staff. The two houses, which would also have two storeys, would be at the southern end of the site with their own parking places.

Seven of the 20 bays in the existing car park would be lost but eight new ones would be created at the back of the building.

Abdullah Naveed, Mr Sandhu’s agent, says the income from the B&B units would effectively subsidise the business.

This would also enable the community to retain the pub while providing additional housing and leisure facilities in line with district council policy.

Mr Naveed said: “[Mr Sandhu] acknowledges the widespread local support for reinstatement and the concerns that have been expressed about its loss. He is willing to bring back into use the pub operation as it always has been but needs to be confident that this will be financially viable.”

Mr Sandhu had been advised by “industry professionals” that the pub would not survive on its own.

“As such there is a need for further development,” said Mr Naveed. “Thus the pub will become much more sustainable and less reliant on future bailouts.

“The proposal would directly support the local economy and social wellbeing of the village.”

The district council is accepting comments before it makes a decision by October 7.

Goring Heath Parish Council opposed Mr Sandhu’s previous application. When the case went to appeal last year, Mr Sandhu commissioned a report which he said proved the White Lion was unviable. A consultant hired by the district council reached the same conclusion but then the authority distanced itself from the report, saying it was poorly researched.

Mr Sandhu’s opponents say the pub thrived under earlier ownership and had only failed because of poor management.

It underwent a rapid succession of tenants in the years before it shut but was successfully run by Caroline and Stuart Pierrepont, from Goring, for much of the Noughties.

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