Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Village makes fresh bid to save old pub from redevelopment

Village makes fresh bid to save old pub from redevelopment

CAMPAIGNERS trying to save an historic Shiplake pub from partial redevelopment for housing have stepped up their fight.

Shiplake Parish Council is to reapply to have the Plowden Arms listed as an asset of community value.

A previous request was rejected by South Oxfordshire District Council on the grounds of “insufficient” supporting evidence being provided.

The parish council is urging villagers to complete a questionnaire to help demonstrate the pub’s social and community value.

The 17th-century pub, which is off the A4155 Reading road at Shiplake Cross, is currently the subject of a planning application by Heritage England, a developer based in Chinnor, to transform part of the building and grounds into flats and houses.

The pub, which went on the market earlier this year, is still owned by Karen Rackham, from Earley, who bought it from Brakspear for £450,000 in 2017.

She then ran it with her partner David Morris until it closed in January last year.

If a building is made an asset of community value, it means that if the owner wants to sell it they must wait six months to give the community a chance to make a bid, although they don’t have to accept it. Planning authorities can give weight to the fact that a building is a community asset when assessing redevelopment proposals.

Fred Maroudas, chairman of Shiplake Parish Council, said there was a good case for the pub to be listed.

He said: “We think it’s a good pub and viable and that’s why we’re pushing. It’s certainly hugely important for the village and for the parish.

“We’re looking for residents’ views and for them to make their voices heard.”

He said the village already had a number of other assets of community value which had been accepted with less consultation or need for evidence than the district council required for the pub.

Janet Matthews, chairwoman of the Shiplake and Binfield Heath Local History Group, welcomed the parish council’s decision to try again.

She said: “I hope this time they will back it up with lots of evidence. When it came back that the parish council had not provided enough evidence about the pub being a community asset, I think they realised that perhaps they should have provided more examples, or given some responses to a questionnaire, or even just got people to comment.

“They know that people want to keep it as a pub but they have to get the evidence to prove that is the case.”

The pub has timbers dating back to the 1600s and has served as an ale house since at least the 1750s.

Mrs Matthews said: “In historical terms it’s quite important. It started off as an alehouse in somebody’s front room because at the time the local farmer used to produce his own beer.

“Over the years it became a hotel and was used for dinners after parish council meetings and, apparently, Isambard Kingdom Brunel attended one.”

Mrs Matthews said the pub had been used by community organisations over the years, including the Shiplake WI darts team, which she belonged to.

She said she didn’t mind some development on the site but not on the scale being proposed by Heritage England.

The developer 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 would continue trading from an 80 sq m space on the ground floor.

Heritage England says “diversifying” the site will secure the pub’s future.

Opponents say the smaller pub would be unviable because of the lack of a garden and customer parking. The parish council insists the scheme would create a traffic hazard on Plough Lane.

In rejecting the parish council’s first 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, insufficient 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.”

The questionnaire is available for completion until midnight on October 11 at

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