Neighbours plan legal action over vote backing £1.5m pub - as district gives green light

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at The George, Wickham Market, in 2013

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at The George, Wickham Market, in 2013 - Credit: Archant

Villagers unhappy with proposals to revive a fire-hit pub say they plan to stage legal action over a tense meeting which saw a parish council controversially approve the bid.

Neighbour Barnaby Rudston and a group of fellow residents have requested an appeal and procedural review of the authority’s decision to back plans for The George Pub in Wickham Market, on the grounds it was “flawed”.

Parish council chiefs denied this when contacted, with the clerk adding that “each councillor voted on what was in front of them”.

People in Wickham Market gathered to launch the share scheme to save The George pub. Picture: JULIAN

People in Wickham Market gathered to launch the share scheme to save The George pub. Picture: JULIAN EVANS - Credit: Archant

It comes as the £1.5million scheme to revamp the pub, ravaged by fire in 2013, was unanimously approved at a meeting of East Suffolk Council (ESC)’s planning committee on Tuesday.

Councillors at Wickham Market Parish Council voted to support the plans at an extraordinary meeting last Thursday which saw the ethics of its decision-making heavily criticised by members of the public.

Four councillors voting had shares in The George project but not enough to declare pecuniary interests.

Chairman Ivor French spoke at ESC’s meeting on Tuesday to confirm the proposals had been supported by his authority despite a number of concerns, including impact on nearest neighbours, noise and parking.

Ivor French, chairman of Wickham Market Parish Council

Ivor French, chairman of Wickham Market Parish Council - Credit: EAST SUFFOLK COUNCIL ZOOM

Neighbour Andrew West told ESC’s committee that although the parish had voted in support, “a lot of councillors were not happy at all”. 

He claimed the council had only voted four in support and three against “because they had ousted the parish planning committee chairwoman two days before the meeting”.

Parish clerk Jo Peters previously explained committee leaders are chosen each year but confirmed long-running chair Lisa Sanders had been replaced two days before Thursday’s extraordinary meeting.

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Ms Sanders previously chaired a planning committee meeting that saw the authority object to The George plans.

Amended plans for The George pub in Wickham Market, with extract chimney added

Amended plans for The George pub in Wickham Market, with extract chimney added - Credit: PURCELL/GEORGE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

ESC planners told Mr French they welcomed the proposal but were “confused” by the parish council’s supporting stance due to the long list of concerns it submitted ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

Mr French responded that it was a “very contentious case”.

As ESC planners voted to approve the application, a member of the public told councillors it was a “miscarriage of justice”, adding that legal proceedings were planned by neighbours.

Hoardings get painted outside the George Pub in Wickham Market Picture: GEORGE COMMUNITY PUB

Hoardings get painted outside the George Pub in Wickham Market Picture: GEORGE COMMUNITY PUB - Credit: GEORGE COMMUNITY PUB

Case officer Katherine Scott said there had been public correspondence supporting and opposing the plans and recommended they be approved subject to conditions including for noise and pollution levels.

Colin Owens, who spoke for applicants George Management Committee, said the group’s consultation with the public had been “extensive”, adding the plans had “significant community support” with more than 400 people buying shares or pledging.

ESC planners described the application as a “well-thought-through restoration” of a listed building and voted unanimously to back it.

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