MORE than 400 people have signed a petition against plans to turn a disused village pub into a house.
A businessman bought the White Lion in Crays Pond from Greene King in October and is seeking planning permission to live there with his family.
Satwinder Sandhu, from Huddersfield, says the pub was no longer viable but residents dispute this.
A report commissioned by Mr Sandhu’s agent in December says the pub was in poor condition and would have cost at least £125,000 to refurbish.
It also says the business was not making enough money to meet its running costs.
In its last full year of trading, income was £137,500 but total losses before tax and rent were almost £36,000.
But the residents claim the report by consultants Davis Coffer Lyons is misleading.
In a letter to the district council, they point out that the consultants inspected the pub more than a month after it closed by which time Mr Sandhu had ripped out most of the fixtures and fittings without permission.
They also say the business made at least £728,000 a year between 2000 and 2008, when it was managed by Stuart and Caroline Pierrepont, who now run their own restaurant in Goring.
The residents say the pub was poorly run after the Pierreponts left and claimed it would still be viable in the right hands.
The letter says: “It’s no secret that since 2008 the White Lion suffered from some extremely bad management. Combined with increased rent as a result of its previous success, it proved unviable for new tenants who came and went in quick succession.
“The community urges the district council to uphold planning policy and reject Mr Sandhu’s planning intentions. Please give the White Lion back to the community. The community wants an immediate end to this farce and their pub and restaurant back.”
Goring Heath resident Richard Hazell, who bought the Sun Inn in Whitchurch Hill from Brakspear last year, said he would have been “very interested” in buying the White Lion had he known it was for sale but it was not marketed locally.
Offers in the region of £600,000 were invited by the London office of estate agent Fleurets, which said: “An initial discreet viewing on a customer basis is required. Staff are unaware and should not be approached.”
In a letter of objection to the district council, Mr Hazell said: “The way the applicant has gone about this is a disgrace. Just cutting the pub sign down and then assuming it can be used as a house is not the way to go about this.
“This pub is very popular and I and my family have used it for many years. It is the only pub in Crays Pond and should stay as a pub.”
He said he was convinced it could be run as a profitable business.
The protesters’ letter said: “This method of sale of such an important community establishment is ethically wrong and should never have been allowed to happen.
“Of course, if it had been sold as a free house this could have placed it in direct competition with the Red Lion in Woodcote, which is also owned by Greene King.”
Greene King refused to comment.