Saturday, 23 October 2021

Anger as pub in planning wrangle fails to re-open

THE owner of a former pub has been criticised for failing to honour his pledge to re-open it.

Satwinder Sandhu, who has been living unlawfully at the former White Lion at Crays Pond for almost five years, had promised villagers and South Oxfordshire District Council that the business would be trading again by last week.

This was to comply with an enforcement notice issued by the council ordering him to stop using the property as his home.

He has already been prosecuted for failing to obey the notice and was ordered to pay more than £6,100 in fines and costs.

Members of the Save The White Lion pressure group had planned to visit the pub on the opening evening on Thursday last week but Mr Sandhu emailed them a few hours beforehand to say it wasn’t ready.

He said he needed more time to carry out conversion work and to stock up on drinks but that the pub would open eventually, although he didn’t say when.

Now residents are urging the council to go to court to seek an injunction against Mr Sandhu.

This would not force him to
re-open the pub but he would be required to move out and it would be a criminal offence for him to disobey it.

Fiona O’Brien, a member of the pressure group, said: “We knew it was unlikely to re-open because absolutely nothing at the pub has changed in the past few months.

“The whole site still looks neglected and a bit of a mess. There’s a lot of work to be done and he could — and should — have got it done months ago.

“He only promised [to re-open] because the possibility of an injunction came up. It was just another delaying tactic. He was just playing for time and felt he had to say something.

“We want everyone to know that we haven’t forgotten the White Lion and are still fighting for it.

“We’re very frustrated because he has had so many chances to do something with that pub and hasn’t done anything.”

Mr Sandhu was served with the notice in 2014. He appealed the following year but was turned down and given another year to move out of the former Greene King premises.

At the time, he said he had bought the premises to convert it into an Indian restaurant but only realised this wouldn’t be viable after moving to the area with his family from Huddersfield.

He commissioned a study which concluded a pub wouldn’t succeed either.

The council commissioned a second report which reached the same conclusion but then disowned it, saying it had been badly done.

Mr Sandhu obtained a licence to run a pub and proposed a number of schemes which he said would subsidise it, including building housing on the site or a running a bed and breakfast but these were rejected by the council.

Residents say the White Lion had been successful for many years and only struggled in the run-up to its closure due to poor management.

Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath Parish Council, said: “Like the residents’ group, I’m very keen for it to re-open as a pub.

“We’ve been fighting hard for this for five years as it should be serving as a pub for the community and the wider public. We’ve always been disappointed at his failure to comply.

“He should comply with the legal requirements and the community will be keeping a very close eye on him.”

Mr Sandhu did not respond to a request for comment.

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