The Victorian pub had been declared an asset of community value after it ceased trading in 2015 and was also designated as a building of local interest within the conservation area. Local plan policy resisted proposals that would result in the loss of essential facilities and services, subject to need and viability tests.
In looking at prospects for the pub to be brought back into use, the inspector assessed four scenarios put forward by the council, the appellant and the parish council. He sided with the parish council’s not-for-profit approach, based on securing a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, which he regarded as a robust plan that would provide a competitive return, in line with paragraph 70 of the NPPF. He concluded that it had not been clearly demonstrated that it was no longer practical, desirable or viable to retain the pub use.
As no external alterations were proposed to facilitate the change of use, the inspector accepted that it would not harm the conservation area’s appearance. However, he felt that as the pub had provided a functional focus within the village green, continuation of this use would provide a balance in the character of the conservation area that would otherwise be dominated by homes.
He accepted that the unoccupied building currently contributed little to the area’s amenity. However, given his conclusion on viability and the parish council’s efforts to acquire the site, he was satisfied that the building would be put back into use, restoring activity and vitality that had been part of the significance of the conservation area. Conversely, he reasoned, permanent loss of the use would harm the area’s character.
Despite rejecting the appeal, the inspector awarded the appellant partial costs against the parish council for unreasonably submitting late evidence that affected his consideration of the viability issue and caused an otherwise unnecessary adjournment of the hearing.
Inspector: Patrick Whelan; Hearing