Community objects to loss of pub to residential use

Planning
Planning

Residents are accusing the owners of a village pub of being unwilling to sell it at a realistic price in order for it to be saved as a community asset.

Instead, the owners of The Thorold Arms on High Street, Harmston have applied for permission from North Kesteven District Council to change it to a single dwelling.

Applicant Julie Haycroft, ran the pub with her partner from 2003, but then leased it to tenants four years ago. Having decided to put it on the market last year but receiving no credible offers, she says she has applied to return it to residential use, leading to dozens of letters of objection.

Over 80 local investors formed the Thorold Arms Property Company last November, aiming to buy the freehold, refurbish the pub and install new tenants.

Mark Osborne of Vicarage Lane, Harmston, is one of the objectors. He says: “Offering regular opening hours and good food, the previous tenants (2014 to 2018) showed that it was viable. The inability to secure funds to purchase the pub suggests more an over-valuation of the property than financial unviability of the business.”

He said there was no local alternative venue in safe walking distance, saying it added to social cohesion in the community: “Our offer to buy the pub at the market value of £170,000, determined by a professional valuation, has so far been rejected.”

The owners had been asking for £239,000.

Fellow objector Simon Baldwin said expert advice on the viability of the pub confirmed that it was a viable small business. “It is also pertinent to note that most of the people who have pledged money to the project are financially astute,” he said.

In Ms Haycraft’s application, she explains that when she and her partner took over the pub in 2003 the pub was too small to accommodate a ‘family friendly’ policy.

She said: “Over the years the takings of the pub have decreased from a gross profit of £69,167 in 2003 to £13,099 in 2014 reflecting the reduction in support from both the village and outside custom.”

She claimed the refurbished Memorial Hall further affected custom and only outside earnings kept them afloat. She said in 2014 they allowed new tenants to take on the pub but they could not secure sufficient funds, forcing her to put it on the market. Ms Haycraft said although offering it to villagers, a “sensible offer” had not been forthcoming.

○ A community group in Leasingham is bidding to buy the The Duke of Wellington pub in Leasingham.

Research has been done and an offer to buy shares in the pub was launched on March 11. Anyone can purchase shares at £50 each, up to a maximum of £20,000 in order to raise a minimum of £250,000. To get in touch with the Leasingham Community Benefit Society Ltd, email
info@buytheduke.co.uk, or visit the website, www.buytheduke.co.uk .