Change of use of existing public house (Sui Generis) to provide a three-bed dwelling and a four-bed dwelling (Use C3), erection of a three-bed and two four-bed dwellings (Use C3) on land adjacent to the public house accessed from Main Street, with associated parking and landscaping, along with the demolition of existing outbuilding (amended plans received 1 and 8 December 2022 to rectify discrepancy on existing elevation plans, amended boundary treatment, revised energy statement, revised site plan to include air source heat pumps and biodiversity metric and amended red line plan to reduce site area received 8 February 2023. Further amended plans also received on 15 February 2023 to include amended visibility splays, turning area, car parking, amendment to the roof of plot 1, amendment to the finish of the dwellings to render, and the setting back of plot 5).
The committee considered planning application P22/S3609/FUL for the change of use of existing public house (Sui Generis) to provide a three-bed dwelling and a four-bed dwelling (Use C3), erection of a three-bed and two four-bed dwellings (Use C3) on land adjacent to the public house accessed from Main Street, with associated parking and landscaping, along with the demolition of existing outbuilding (amended plans received 1 and 8 December 2022 to rectify discrepancy on existing elevation plans, amended boundary treatment, revised energy statement, revised site plan to include air source heat pumps and biodiversity metric and amended red line plan to reduce site area received 8 February 2023. Further amended plans also received on 15 February 2023 to include amended visibility splays, turning area, car parking, amendment to the roof of plot 1, amendment to the finish of the dwellings to render, and the setting back of plot 5), on land at Horse & Harrow, Main Street, West Hagbourne.
Consultations, representations, policy and guidance, and the site’s planning history were detailed in the officer’s report, which formed part of the agenda pack for the meeting.
The planning officer introduced the report and highlighted that the application was brought to the committee at the request of the Development Manager, due to a council staff member living in the first-floor apartment of the pub, and following an objection from West Hagbourne Parish Council. The planning officer informed the committee that the parish council’s concerns centred around the lack of consultation between the developer and the village and that, as this was the last pub and public building in the village, if the application was granted there would be a lack of public meeting spaces.
The planning officer noted that the site itself was situated on the western edge of West Hagbourne with several houses built nearby to the east and with several other houses being built to the west. Due to these developments, the planning officer considered the application to be an infill development.
The planning officer also highlighted to members that the parcel of land to the west side of the site was in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty whilst the pub itself sat within the West Hagbourne Conservation Area. However, as the proposed dwellings in the application were designed with some pitched and some hipped roofs and finished with white render, the planning officer believed that they would be in character with the surrounding buildings and sympathetic to the area.
Finally, the planning officer informed members that the council had instructed an independent viability assessment and that the assessor believed that the pub would be unlikely to be viable in the future.
Overall, based on the viability assessment reports and the lack of objections received from technical consultees, the planning officer recommended that the application be approved, subject to conditions.
Councillor Michael Butler spoke on behalf of West Hagbourne Parish Council, objecting to the application.
David Cooper spoke objecting to the application.
Christian Roberts, representing the applicant, and Jeremy Heppell, the agent, spoke in support of the application.
The committee asked the planning officer about a nearby pub, the Red Lion in Blewbury, and the reasons why this was not included or referred to in the independent viability assessment report, but the planning officer could not confirm the reasons for this.
Members then asked about the weight provided to the motion passed by the full council of South Oxfordshire District Council, on 25 March 2021, that the council would use all its available powers to ensure pubs continue to be able to provide for the local community, in accordance with Local Plan Policy CF1. In response, the planning officer informed members that, in a situation where a pub met the criteria in that policy, the council would look to retain the pub but indicated that the viability assessment did not show that. However, members felt strongly that the pub did meet the criteria in Policy CF1 as it was essential to the community, being their only public meeting place, and also that the pub could be economically viable in the future with proper investment, and also that the viability assessment had key omissions that were very relevant. The members also believed that the reason only ten objections were received to the application was due to the historic lack of investment in the pub.
The committee then asked about why the pub had not been advertised for sale as was required in other policies relating to employment spaces before they were permitted to be sold off. The planning officer and development manager clarified that those policies requiring a marketing exercise would not apply in this case due to the requirements in Policy CF1. Members also raised concerns that that the pub had not been put up for sale or advertised and that this would also likely affect the outlook in the viability assessment.
A question was also raised about the overflow car park to the west of the site as members believed that the area was currently not suitable for vehicle parking and that it was also not advertised as such a space. In response, the planning officer indicated that a condition applied to the 2018 application for the turning of parking spaces in the east into several detached dwellings was that this area be used as overflow parking. However, members maintained concerned as there were no indications it was used for car parking as it was left to be an overgrown grassland.
Overall, members believed that pub met two criteria in Local Plan Policy CF1; firstly, that the pub could be viable given appropriate investment and advertising, something that the pub had been lacking, and that there were key omissions in the viability assessment report; and secondly that it was a needed community facility as it was the only public meeting space in the whole village, and a non-designated heritage asset. In addition, members emphasised the requirement from the full council motion on 25 March 2021 to support and protect such facilities if they meet Policy CF1. Therefore, as the committee agreed that the pub was a needed community facility that could be economically viable, they agreed that the application should be refused.
A motion, moved and seconded, to refuse the application was carried on being put to the vote.
RESOLVED: to refuse planning application P22/S3609/FUL for the following reasons:
1. The Horse and Harrow public house is considered to be essential to the village, being the only community facility in West Hagbourne and one which fosters the engagement and involvement of the local community, as well as providing jobs for local people and local suppliers. Although viability assessments have been produced, they have omitted key considerations, such as other nearby public houses, and there have been no attempts to market the premises. The Horse and Harrow has suffered from an historic lack of investment which, in turn, has deterred people from visiting the premises. With investment the public house could be economically viable in the future.
As such the proposed change of use of the public house would be contrary to policy CF1 of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 which seeks to safeguard existing community facilities and paragraphs 84 (d) and 93 (c) and (d) of the NPPF.