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Owners lose battle to convert pub to home
Thursday, 05 July 2012
THE owners of the Shurton Inn have lost their bid to turn the currently closed public house into a private home.
The pub has been shut since 2010 and owners Jeff and Sarah Bryant were refused permission to convert it into a house with four ancillary letting rooms in July last year.
They appealed against the decision, but Government planning inspector Phillip Ware has now ruled West Somerset Council was right to stop the pub being lost, saying it should remain as an important community asset.
Mr Ware said the loss of the pub would conflict with both national and local planning policies and not enough had been done to market the property as a business.
He said the ongoing development at nearby Hinkley Point power station meant the business was potentially in a far stronger position than it ever had been, but nothing had been done to try to sell the property in the last two years.
He also took issue with the price the Bryants had asked for the pub when it was marketed, initially for £540,000 in 2008, dropping to £495,000 in 2009.
An offer of £425,000 was turned down and the pub was taken off the market in March 2010.
Mr Ware said: “I am concerned that the marketing of the property was at a level to reflect the price which the appellants had paid and not the market price recommended by the agents.
“When the price was reduced, after a much longer period than had been recommended, it was only to a level slightly below the originally requested asking price.
“Whilst I can understand the appellants’ wish to make a return on their purchase, this does not suggest that the property was realistically marketed at a price which would test the market.”
Mr and Mrs Bryant bought the pub in 2006 for £525,000 at a time when the business was doing well.
The pub continued to flourish for the first year under Mr and Mrs Bryant’s ownership but then went into decline.
Mr and Mrs Bryant blamed the economic downturn and unviability of a small rural public house, while villagers who formed the Save Our Shurton Co-ordination Group (SOS) to oppose the closure cited the management of the business.
Mr Ware said there was no conclusive evidence either way and said the main issues facing him related solely to planning policies.
“Local plan policy provides that conversions to residential accommodation will be permitted provided that the applicant can demonstrate that every reasonable attempt has been made to secure a business use for the building.
“In this case, due to the length of time which has elapsed since the property was last marketed, the potential changes in the market as a result of the works at Hinkley and the price at which the property was marketed, it is considered that the proposal is in conflict with this policy,” Mr Ware said.
He said it was clear the closure of the pub had caused “considerable concern on the part of a significant section of the community” and said policies were in place to stop rural settlements and villages losing important services such as shops and pubs.
Mr and Mrs Bryant had argued that retaining four letting rooms at the property to provide tourist accommodation would contribute to both the local and national economy.
They also believed a number of planning policies designed to protect village services did not apply to the pub as Shurton was not defined as a village by the district council.
Mr Ware disagreed and said there were also national policies in place to support a “prosperous rural economy” through the retention of local services.
Mr Ware concluded: “There is no other community facility in Shurton and the importance of the public house to the community in the past has been clearly demonstrated.
“The business used to be successful but declined for reasons which are not agreed.
“[Planning policy] deals with the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services and the local plan requires the requirement that the application should demonstrate that every reasonable attempt has been made to secure a business use for the building.
“In relation to the age of the marketing and the price which was sought, this has not been demonstrated.
“In addition, there would be a social disbenefit and no demonstration of economic benefit, which leads to a further conflict with policy.”
All content © of West Somerset Free Press unless stated otherwise.
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