Holbeach St Johns residents’ bidding to keep their nearly 200-year-old pub open have received a significant boost after planning officers refused an application to change it into a home.
The owner of the The Plough on Jekills Bank, Ian Osborn, took over the establishment last July but said he couldn’t financially afford to open it.
The application caused condemnation from villagers, 65 of whom officially objected to the application.
Two meetings have also been held, one attended by nearly a 100 people, where methods were discussed to save the pub including listing it as an Asset of Community Value which would give residents the chance to purchase it if it was sold.
Planning officers said the strength of feeling from the community showed there was a need for The Plough.
The report refusing permission states: “Given the level of objection from the local community, it is clear that it is a valued facility in the village.
“It has been advised that the previous owner only sold the public house due to personal circumstances, rather than the public house being surplus to requirements.
“No financial evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that the public house is not economically viable.
“The applicant argues that the public house is not economically viable due to the size and layout not being conducive to allowing enough customers in a socially distanced manner.
“Whilst this may be the case internally, there is scope for outdoor drinking and dining, but this hasn’t been taken advantage of in the manner that other public houses have done.
“It is not considered that COVID alone is a satisfactory reason.
“The applicant argues that the building is not fit for purpose due to the repairs needed to the leaking roof. The phrase ‘unfit for purpose’ is somewhat subjective, however the public house remained operating (albeit under COVID restrictions) until June 2020 (offering a takeaway service) and, as mentioned in the previous point, there is scope for outdoor drinking and dining, but this hasn’t been taken advantage of in the manner that other public houses have done.
“All being well, COVID restrictions will be lifted in the relatively near future and the internal space could function as it
once did again.
“It is not considered that roof repairs being required is a sufficiently strong reason to deem the public house ‘unfit for purpose’ given that there is the potential to repair and, in any case, if the building were converted to a dwelling the leaking roof would need to be repaired.
“Whilst officers can sympathise with the applicant’s financial situation and apparent lack of help from the government financially for the business, sufficient evidence has not been provided to demonstrate that the proposal satisfactorily complies with Policy 32 of the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan.
“In addition to the above, an applicant would normally be expected to show that a genuine attempt had been made to sell the facility as a going concern for at least a period of 12 months.
“Given that the public house was only purchased by the applicant in July 2020, not even 12 months of
ownership has yet passed.”