Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Man fined £1,000 for using former pub as family home

A MAN been ordered to pay £1,500 by a court for living in a pub illegally.

Satwinder Sandhu, 44, had been given a year to leave the White Lion in Crays Pond, which he has owned since 2013.

He had sought to convert it into a house but was refused planning permission by South Oxfordshire District Council.

Sandhu admitted breaching an enforcement notice when he appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday last week and was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £500 costs.

In July last year he was given a year to leave pub after losing an appeal against the decision to refuse planning permission.

In August this year, council enforcement officers visited the property in Goring Road and found Sandhu and his family were still living there.

Suzanne Green, prosecuting, said: “The council deemed that the residential use of this public house resulted in the loss of an essential community facility.

“A permanent change of use to a house would only be possible if the business could be shown to be economically unviable.

“The council view is that Mr Sandhu has not provided adequate evidence to suggest the business is unviable.

“Indeed, there were indications it is potentially viable when you look at how the business flourished under previous landlords.

“The loss of this public house will have and has had an impact on the vitality of the village.”

Ms Green said the council had worked with Sandhu for a year until the enforcement notice ran out on July 29.

She said: “He was given advice by the council to provide options in marketing to try to sell the pub, to prove it was no longer viable or submit a suitable scheme to help the pub re-open.

“It was always made clear that clearance was expected, therefore unless an alternative scheme was put forward we would expect it to be cleared.

“When we went to the premises in August it was clear that it had not been cleared and he was still living there as a home.”

In August Sandhu applied to build five bed and breakfast units at the back of the pub and two five-bedroom houses on the orchard next to the car park.

He argued that the development was needed to make the site viable for business and to re-open the pub.

But Ms Green said: “On October 11, in response to submitting the planning application, the planning department compiled a lengthy response setting out why the scheme could not be supported.

“There is a lot of interest from local residents and the parish council who clearly want their community asset back.”

After Sandhu bought the pub from Greene King he began to convert it into a family home.

The council told him to apply for permission, which it then refused to grant and then issued him with the enforcement notice to leave within 12 months in July 2014. He appealed, which gave him a year’s grace.

Sandhu said he had planned to convert the pub into an Indian restaurant but then changed his mind. He had commissioned a study which found the pub was not economically viable.

Richard Hanstock, defending, said his client had lost money on the pub but wanted to make it a success.

He said: “The council requested him to leave or make sure it’s returned to its permanent use as a public house. Essentially, it was ‘restore the pub or get out of the residence altogether’.

“He wants to make suitable use of the land and went through all the processes, as is his right as he spent a lot of money seeking to get a change of use.

“At the beginning of the 12-month period my client asked what he could do to bring himself into compliance.

“He had some ideas to come up with something suitable. It would take a significant amount, at least £40,000, to get the pub off the ground.

“My client is between a rock and a hard place — he wants to re-open the pub and take advantage of the land but does not want to expose himself to the commercial risks.”

The Henley Standard understands he is still living in the property and more court proceedings would be needed to remove him.

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