Monday, 11 December 2017

Villagers split over pub’s bid to open longer or shut

A VILLAGE pub has been allowed to extend its opening hours after the owner claimed it would close otherwise.

A VILLAGE pub has been allowed to extend its opening hours after the owner claimed it would close otherwise.

Residents of Stonor were divided over the planning application by the Quince Tree to open for an extra hour each night, with opponents fearful of noise disturbance.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee agreed unanimously to allow the pub to open until midnight Monday to Saturday and 11pm on Sundays for a one-year trial period.

Bobby Yerburgh, who bought the former Stonor Arms, which had been derelict for seven years, before re-opening it in April last year, admitted the pub, restaurant and café business was not doing as well as he had hoped. He told the committee: “Contrary to what many people may think, the Quince Tree is struggling financially and the main reason for this is the planning restrictions imposed on us, which mean a large part of the space cannot be sensibly used to generate the revenues necessary to keep the operation afloat.

“The consequence of not being commercially viable is that we will have no option but to close.”

Mr Yerburgh said closing the business would cost 43 jobs, the village would lose an amenity and there would be a “considerable” knock-on effect for his 21 local suppliers.

“There are some who might be happy for us to shut but they are in a very small minority,” he said. “However, if that is their wish then I would like to know what they want in its place. Pubs are shutting in their droves and if I can’t make a commercial success of the current operation then I will have little option but to shut the doors.

“Nearly 18 months after starting negotiations with planning officers I am sitting here today less than two weeks before Christmas Day with customers still unable to make plans for New Year’s Eve because of the planning restrictions imposed on us. These do not allow us to be open on New Year’s Eve or to even apply for a temporary event notice.”

Thomas Dunn, chairman of Stonor and Pishill Parish Council, said: “The council unanimously supports the application. The Quince Tree is something we should all be proud of and we should be welcoming and encouraging its ongoing investment and contribution to the locality.

“We acknowledge that there are some objections to the application but there is tremendous support for it within the community. The business should be allowed to compete with other establishments none of which has, to our knowledge, restrictions on opening times.

“We know that noise is of concern but there is already a noise restriction attached to the licence and from our experience we don’t believe that this will become an issue.”

Villager David Reed, a planning officer for the Chiltern Society, said: “There has been a lot of mention of the Quince Tree’s success and future success and I want to nail the idea that the objectors don’t wish that to happen — we do very much so.

“Our concern is that this shouldn’t happen at the expense of the near- neighbours.” Martin Messenger, who lived next door to the former Stonor Arms for 34 years, said: “Since it became the Quince Tree large, sound-absorbing trees have been removed and the building redeveloped with large glass flanks, a larger, higher level south car park, high brick walls — effectively an amphitheatre for all noise, much worse than before.

“The proposed late hours would be inconsiderate, unneighbourly, very disturbing and stressful to the already long-established immediate neighbours.”

Villager Peter Mangold added: “I live in the house immediately joining the southern car park. During one evening last May, noise as much as the sound of people talking and music was clearly audible in my garden and I say that even though, as far as I am aware, the windows of the function room were closed. There has been no attempt to enter into any kind of dialogue to address the concerns of the immediate neighbours even though they have been repeatedly voiced over the last six months.”

But Nigel Hefferman, who lives opposite the pub, said: “For eight-and-half years we witnssed a boarded-up, derelict pub which had break-ins and antisocial behaviour until it was brilliantly renovated as the Quince Tree, which provided the village and surrounding area with a unique amenity.

“It is noticeable that since the Quince Tree opened most of the traffic appears to drive more carefully through the village. This has to be a good thing.

“I can’t say that I notice antisocial behaviour or noise. I support this application and suggest that I speak for the majority of the villagers. I also suggest that some opponents may not have set foot in the wonderful facilities provided at the Quince Tree.”

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