Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Man faces inquiry into controversial pub plan

A BUSINESSMAN’S bid to turn a village pub into his family home will be decided at a public hearing.

A BUSINESSMAN’S bid to turn a village pub into his family home will be decided at a public hearing.

Satwinder Sandhu is appealing against South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision not to let him live at the White Lion in Crays Pond.

He bought the property from Greene King in October 2013 and began converting it into a private residence a few months afterwards.

He moved his family in and began stripping out the interior and renovating the garden.

Following complaints from villagers, the council told him to submit a retrospective planning application for a change of use.

He did so last summer but was turned down. He was then served with notice to quit in August and given a year to comply.

Mr Sandhu, from Huddersfield, appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which was going to decide the case by written representation.

But now it has decided to call a public hearing on June 16. This was due to be held at the council’s headquarters in Crowmarsh Gifford but a new venue will have to be found following last month’s fire at the offices.

Mr Sandhu says he intended to turn the premises into an Indian restaurant but decided this would not be viable. The pub had struggled under previous owners and a consultant told him it would not attract enough trade to turn a profit.

Last year the council commissioned an independent report which reached the same conclusion.

However, planning officers disputed this and refused permission, saying it would result in the loss of an “essential community facility”.

They argued there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the pub was not viable.

Mr Sandhu told inspectors there were two other pubs within two miles, the Sun Inn in Whitchurch Hill and the Red Lion in Woodcote, so the community would not lose out. He drew their attention to planning officers’ comments that the scheme would not spoil the village’s character.

He said he marketed the pub on the district council’s website as it is registered as an asset of community value but received no offers.

More than 400 residents signed a petition against the plan last year and Goring Heath Parish Council recommended it for refusal. They said the pub was run successfully until 2008 and could thrive again.

Fiona O’Brien, of pressure group Save the White Lion, urged residents to attend the hearing.

She said, “We’re considering making banners and leaflets to make residents aware of what is going on.”

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