The public house had been vacant for two years, but the inspector accepted that it had played an important and valued role in the life of the village prior to its closure. The pub was marketed for ten months after closing at which time the appellant bought it with the intention of re-opening it as a pub. The inspector saw this as successful marketing, a fact not altered by the appellant’s subsequent decision not to re-open it. The pub had since been registered as an Asset of Community Value, with the parish trying to raise funds to purchase it. The inspector viewed these factors as interest in a resumption of the pub’s use and held that the past marketing of the pub under a different owner was not sufficient evidence of a lack of interest to run the pub. He further opined with respect to the council’s viability report, which reached a view that the pub could not viably be returned to use as a pub, that this turned on the condition of the building and did not reflect valuation. The inspector considered that in the absence of any up-to-date and realistic marketing of the building at a price which was clearly reflective of both its current poor condition and public house use, it had yet to be proven whether the need for remedial works rendered its use unviable, or therefore that the use was truly redundant. He concluded harm to local vitality through its loss and conflict with adopted local plan and NPPF policies in this regard.
An award of costs against the council was refused, the inspector finding that although he felt the council acted unreasonably in continuing to defend their reason for refusal regarding harm to bats, despite surveys declaring their absence from the building, the applicant should have anticipated it was unnecessary for a bat specialist to attend the hearing and any expense incurred was their responsibility.
Inspector: Benjamin Webb; Hearing