The main issues in the appeal were the commercial viability of the pub-restaurant and the effect of the loss of the community facility.
Despite the views of the council and parish council, the inspector was convinced by the findings of an economic viability report provided by the appellant. A number of factors indicated that the pub was not viable and there was no realistic prospect of the premises re-opening as a pub-restaurant business. The village lacked the population mass to support the pub and additional custom drawn from a popular walking route, proving ground for test driving vehicles and a Center Parcs had not proved sufficient to sustain the business, and diversification efforts had failed. The pub did not have the same prominence, volume of passing traffic or generous car parking space as competitors in the locality. The age and poor condition of the buildings required significant investment. In this respect the proposal would comply with the viability part of local plan policy restricting the loss of village pubs unless specified criteria are met.
Although there were venues to hire with bars close by in the village, and pubs a short drive away, there was no other pub within easy walking distance and on this basis the inspector found the proposal in conflict with the second part of policy concerning availability of alternatives. However, given the viability position, the inspector decided the change of use to residential would be a more efficient use of the land than having the pub premises standing unused and he allowed the appeal.
Inspector: William Cooper; Written representations