A PUB and micro-brewery are to open in the former Henley police station despite objections by residents.
Entrepreneurs David Bruce and Clive Watson were given permission for a change of use of the Grade II-listed building in Market Place by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee.
The premises have been empty since 2003.
The pub will be open to 11.30pm from Monday to Thursday, until 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays and until 11pm on Sundays.
Residents said the business would cause noise and disruption to neighbours and Henley Town Council had recommended the plans were refused.
Town councillor Martin Akehurst told the committee: “Henley Town Council rejects the proposal for a number of reasons. Firstly, the smell of brewing to the residents, especially those on the site.
“Secondly, this is an especially narrow, one-way part of Henley’s road system which would be made even worse by the town’s development, deliveries, brewing supplies, refuse collection and removal of spent brewing waste.”
He said the opening hours were “totally unacceptable” and pointed out that the nearby Victoria pub, which closed in April after police applied for a review of its licence following 65 alleged breaches, was soon to re-open so another pub was unnecessary.
He said: “The Victoria has been closed down by police on a number of occasions for extended opening hours and a nuisance to the community, noise etc. This application is not for a licensed restaurant, this is a pub with extended opening hours which will cause the local residents a great deal of grief like the Victoria. This is unneighbourly and is inappropriate in that area.”
Mark Thackeray, for the developers, said: “Everyone has got off on the wrong foot in thinking this might turn into a stand-up drinking, falling over pub. What we have here is a restaurant which has applied for a part change of use to a public house so what we are looking for is not a boozer.”
Mr Thackeray said the micro-brewery would be “self-contained”, adding: “There is no issue with the smell and we have been through this with the environmental health people and they are satisfied that is the case.”
He added that it was unlikely people would congregate in the street, even to smoke, as they wouldn’t be allowed to take their drink outside with them.
Town and district councillor Joan Bland said: “I hear the residents’ concerns but we have heard residents’ concerns before in Henley.
“We heard the concerns over La Barca but I haven’t heard any complaints about that restaurant since it has been in use.”
Town and district councillor Jeni Wood claimed that delivery lorries would block the road but committee chairwoman Pearl Slatter said she had a micro-brewery near her and didn’t even know when deliveries were made.
Councillor Robert Simister called Cllr Wood’s comment “ridiculous”, adding there were other businesses nearby that managed deliveries.
Cllr Wood replied that her main concern was that the residents had bought their properties believing they would be living next to a restaurant, not a pub and the change of use would be
She added: “That road is busy — buses come down and the fire engine goes down there because it is one-way. Henley is an ancient medieval town — that’s why those who live there love it — but it is very restrictive for parking and huge vehicles.”
Cllr Simister replied: “There is nothing more medieval and ancient than brewing beer in my opinion and it is really interesting that the lane is both extremely quiet and extremely busy.
“We should put this through. It looks like a really nice development. You cannot legislate for no noise whatsoever.”
Mr Bruce and Mr Watson used to own the Capital Pub Company, which had a chain of 34 pubs until they sold it to Greene King for £93 million last year.
The pair say the interior of the 2,700 sq ft pub will be a mixture of traditional and contemporary styles with a seated booth in a former cell and a semi-visible kitchen. The brewery will be behind glass walls to create a focal point and it’s hoped will produce up to 2,000 pints a week.
Mr Watson said: “The residents can rest assured it will be a very good brew pub with great food.
“We understand their concerns and we hope that when they see the project, it will be something that will bring back the heritage of Henley.”
* What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG0 1AD or email firstname.lastname@example.org