27 Oct 2008

Future of Woodcutters Arms?

I can hardly believe that more than 2 years have gone by since the Woodcutters Arms in Whiteshill was put up for sale - see my blog here re the loss of pubs.

Photo: to year old photo before tarmac was converted back to a Village Green

Since then many have asked what my views are on this site and I have made no secret that I do not support a change of use to a home. However my view will have little effect on the planning process and I know from talking to others there are many who disagree with me as they would like to see the site developed. Here is roughly what I said to the local press when they asked last week:

I am concerned that we will loose another community facility from the village just at a time when climate change and oil prices mean that we should be supporting more local services. However I accept that to develop this site as a public house is unlikely to be attractive in the current economic climate - particularly as another pub is so close. However Stroud District Council policies (Policy SH15) state that there must be 'no prospect of a continued community use'. I have therefore requested more robust evidence to justify their case than currently provided.

The Christie and Co report dated 18th September 2008 that was submitted with the planning application along with other evidence supplied by the applicant certainly provides justification for questioning the viability of this pub as a business. It should be noted that no longterm lease was granted by Admiral and at no time in recent years have landlords been given a chance to develop the pub's business. Indeed there seems to have been precious little development or promotion of this pub in the past.

I am keen to see improvements made to this property, which has, what is arguably the most prominent site in the Village - it is situated in full view as you come up the hill and on our Village Green - it is deeply disappointing that planning laws seem to make it so diificult to insist that any development on the site is for affordable housing or some other community use. We need to keep villages alive - and yes of course it will be great to have an empty building full but this is not what is needed.

Having said all that I hear the proposed applicant is allegedly a stone mason and aims to restore it sympathetically. In the light of our planning laws not allowing for other possibilities this may well be a good solution.

Update 16th November 2008: This application is likely to go to Development Control Committee on 9th Dec following a letter of support from the Parish Council - also I had a comment sent re above: 'Mr Anderson is not an 'alleged' Stone Mason, he is fully qualified having served his apprenticeship on Westminster Abbey, his other experience speaks for itself, such as teaching Masons working on Woodchester Mansion, the lead Mason on the reconstruction event celebrating the moving of Abel Simble in Egypt....'

Planning details: S.08/1669/COU Woodcutters Arms, Main Road, Whiteshill - Change of use from public house to residential. See details here on SDC planning website
- comments can be made up to 5th November.

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