Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Blow for campaign to save pub from redevelopment

Blow for campaign to save pub from redevelopment

A CAMPAIGN to protect an historic Shiplake pub from being partly redeveloped for housing has hit a setback.

South Oxfordshire District Council has refused to list the Plowden Arms as an asset of community value following a request by Shiplake Parish Council.

The parish council is fighting a planning application by Heritage England, a developer based in Chinnor, to transform sections of the 17th-century pub and its grounds into flats and houses.

The pub, which is off the A4155 Reading road at Shiplake Cross, went on the market earlier this year.

It is still owned by Karen Rackham, of Earley, who bought it from Brakspear for £450,000 in 2017 and then ran it with her partner David Morris until it shut in January 2019.

Had it been made a community asset, any attempt to sell the premises would have triggered a six-month moratorium in which the community could have put together a bid to buy it.

Furthermore, under government guidelines, planning authorities may give weight to the fact that a building is a community asset when assessing redevelopment proposals.

In rejecting the parish council’s application, a district council officer said: “While the nomination states that the public house was a meeting point for all members of the local and adjacent communities to enjoy a social environment, insufficent supporting evidence was provided.

“No evidence was provided to support that in the next five years there is a reasonable likelihood the property/land would be utilised to further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.”

Heritage England wants permission in principle to convert the first floor and roof space of the main building into two flats and the rear wing into two homes.

Another two houses would be built in the garden facing Reading road and two more would go in the car park off Plough Lane.

The pub, which has timbers dating back to the 1600s and served as an ale house since at least the 1750s, would continue trading from an 80 sq m space on the ground floor.

Opponents say this would be unviable because of the lack of a garden and customer parking.

Janet Matthews, chairwoman of the Shiplake and Binfield Heath Local History Group, was disappointed by the district council’s decision.

She said: “It’s a shame it wasn’t listed because we lose so many community amenities to housing development.

“The Plowden Arms is very much an asset, not just to the immediate community but the surrounding ones as it’s on a main road with a lovely garden and attracts a lot of passing trade in the summer months.

“It was a lovely place to go for a nice meal and was being run really well. I don’t know what more evidence the council could want, unless they wanted some kind of survey.”

Shiplake Parish Council, which will discuss the issue at a meeting next week, could re-apply for community asset status if it can provide further evidence of the pub’s value.

Heritage England says “diversifying” the site will secure the pub’s future but the parish council insists the scheme would create a traffic hazard on Plough Lane.

More than 70 villagers have now objected.

Mark and Sarah Turner, of New Road, said: “The [parish] council accommodated this couple in order that they could purchase the Plowden and has been figuratively slapped in the face.

“The application is not in the interests of the village and goes directly against its wishes.”

Ian Muir, of Nursery Close, said: “It’s not a very large pub and making it smaller is a cynical way to ensure it closes and the remaining space is converted to more homes.

“The applicant should be ashamed and embarrassed to be trying to destroy a long-standing and important community asset.”

Jon Harris, of Orchard Close, said: “A pub has existed on this site for many years and has been both an important community asset and a commercial success... but dependent on serving food and having access to a garden and adequate parking.”

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