Permission granted to allow Hitcham White Horse to be converted into a home
The planning inspectorate has granted permission for a Suffolk pub to be converted into a home.
The White Horse in Hitcham, near Stowmarket, will be converted following an application made by owners Ann and Richard Lewis late last year.
Planning inspector Sarah Stevens’ decision said although she understood the wish of residents to see the village pub retained, evidence at the hearing showed “very few local persons” had used the pub, and that it provided limited services or facilities to the local community.
The hearing was told a record kept by Mr and Mrs Lewis showed only 27 villagers had used the Grade II-Listed pub with any frequency, and that submissions made showed that the building had failed to sell as a pub.
She added: “Little, if any, specific evidence has been submitted or presented at the hearing detailing the contribution the public house has made to the locality or the effect its loss would have on the community’s ability to meet its everyday needs.
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“Submissions also indicated the village hall was licensed and well-used for social, leisure and community events. This would suggest that the village does have another local facility that provides for some of the needs of the community.”
Mr and Mrs Lewis said following the decision: “At last this is a victory for common sense.
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“The report fully vindicates the application and addresses all the salient points discussed at the appeal.
“As regards the immediate future of The White Horse, the pub and bed and breakfast accommodation will remain open until a residential buyer comes forward.”
Jim Morgan, who chaired the residents’ group which had looked at purchasing the pub as a community asset, said the group had folded as with the change of use they wouldn’t be able to afford it, but stressed it was not the end of pub nights in the village. He said: “We were all a bit disappointed but we recognise the reality of the situation and we thought there’s not much more we can do.
“We hope it all works out for everybody concerned.
“We’re thinking about having pub nights in the village hall. We’re going to get some beer from Bildeston and have a social evening in the village hall.”
Mr and Mrs Lewis added: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have stood by us during what has been a very traumatic time.
“In conclusion we would like to send a message to all those villages whose pub is struggling to survive: use it or you will lose it.”