Thursday, 26 November 2020

Residents want pub but not with new housing

PLANS to re-open the White Lion in Crays Pond with additional hotel-style rooms and housing on

PLANS to re-open the White Lion in Crays Pond with additional hotel-style rooms and housing on the site have been opposed by parish councillors.

Sat Sandhu, who bought the pub in 2013, wants permission to build five bed and breakfast units at the rear of the building and two five- bedroom houses on the orchard beside the car park.

He says the income from the guest rooms and sale of the homes would subsidise the business as it cannot survive alone.

But Goring Heath Parish Council says the scheme would be overdevelopment and inappropriate for a site in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Members believe the pub was mismanaged in the run-up to its closure in 2013 and could still survive without the additions. They say the Sun at Whitchurch Hill and the King William at Ipsden are both thriving.

Peter Dragonetti, the parish council’s chairman, said: “There are so many reasons why this should be refused.

“Income from the B&B and housing might go towards running the pub but that would be outweighed by the unattractive new development which would put customers off.

“There are lots of successful pubs in this area with reasonably-sized car parks. We believe the White Lion is viable in its original state.”

Mr Sandhu wants to remove seven of the 20 parking spaces and create eight new ones at the back of the building.

But Oxfordshire County Council’s highways officers say the new bays would be too small and too near the site entrance.

Countryside officers at South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, say more information is needed about the impact on hedgerows and protected trees on the site.

Seventeen residents have written letters of objection to the district council, as have the Chiltern Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. One resident has written in support.

Lucinda Botham, of Shirvells Hill, Goring Heath, said: “The White Lion was a great place for the community to get together. All villages require a pub and to build more houses on the plot would be awful.”

Mark Lillywhite, of Wayside Green, Woodcote, said: “By allowing the building of the houses, the visibility at the village crossroads would be severely reduced, thus increasing the risk of a serious injury or fatality.” Colin Cole, of Beechwood Close, Goring Heath, said: “This application frustrates anyone wishing to take over the pub in a form that has existed for nearly 100 years. The houses would spoil the pleasant aspect of the pub area which is at the heart of our lovely village.”

Supporter Rebecca Kite, of Folly Orchard Road, Woodcote, said: “No one has been able to run a successful pub there in about a decade.”

Mr Sandhu bought the former Greene King pub with the intention of converting it into an Indian restaurant but changed his mind after learning this was unlikely to succeed. Instead, he moved in with his family but villagers complained to the district council, saying 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 but was refused consent then lost an appeal last year.

Objector Chris Uden, from Crays Pond, said: “The years tick by with the submission of new and even more fanciful planning applications — submitted, in my opinion, to confuse, prevaricate and generally wear down the community.”

Mr Sandhu has acknowledged the “widespread local support for reinstatement” but says he must be confident a pub would thrive. He says his plan would help the village’s economic and social wellbeing.

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