Villagers submit last-ditch bid to save their only pub, The White Horse in Hitcham
Protesters who are fighting the closure of a village’s only pub have been given a temporary reprieve.
The owners of The White Horse in Hitcham, near Stowmarket, had applied to change the building to a home through a planning application – a move that was opposed by the parish council and some villagers.
A bid to have the pub protected as a “community asset” was lodged just hours before yesterday’s meeting which heard the application.
Babergh District Council councillors voted to defer the application for six months at the meeting – allowing time for the community asset bid to be assessed. If permitted, the community would have six months to raise sufficient funds to make a bid for the pub.
Allan Scott, vice-chairman of Hitcham Parish Council, said: “In Hitcham there’s now a broken relationship between the only pub and the community.
“When my council received details of this application we were taken completely by surprise. Just 10 years ago it was bought as a thriving business for £250,000. But we had no idea it was on sale – apparently as a failing business for £350,000.”
Planning officer Shaun Wells confirmed the pub had been up for sale for £350,000 for two years.
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But the meeting heard that there had not been any “significant” offers. He added that an annex for bed and breakfast accommodation, which cost £100,000 to build, had been built in those ten years.
But village resident Robbie Whiting claimed the pub had received a £50,000 grant for the project.
Phil Cobbold, agent for the pub’s owners, Richard and Ann Lewis, said that over the past year only 27 villagers were regularly using the pub out of a population of around 550.
He said: “Initial business was very good, but over the last few years it has sadly developed to being unviable, and today no longer delivers income to generate a salary for the landlords.”