Shropshire Star

Residents' hope of saving village pub from housing plan gets shot in the arm

Residents hope to reopen their beloved village pub despite plans brewing to turn it into housing.

Residents battling to save the Red Lion in Sutton. Photo: David Frost

The Red Lion at Sutton, near Gnosall, is believed to date back to the 17th century and supporters say its customers have included 70s rock legends Ozzy Osbourne and Roy Wood. It closed in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic but has not reopened.

Plans have been put forward to turn the pub into a house and build nine other homes on the Newport Road site.

But residents and Forton Parish Council are determined not to lose the boozer forever.

Forton Parish Council’s bid to register the Red Lion as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) proved successful, despite owner Vanbrugh Construction Ltd objecting to the application made to Stafford Borough Council. And residents are now celebrating after an appeal against the Asset of Community Value designation was lost.

Campaigner Robert Sessford said: “This is fabulous news. The closing of the pub ripped the heart out of the village, it was just awful.

“With the ACV in place it makes it so much harder for the developer to get planning approval and so much more likely we will see our pub open again. The community remains ready to negotiate with Vanbrugh Construction to acquire the Red Lion and reopen it for the benefit of all in the local vicinity.”

If the pub comes up for sale at a future date ACV status gives the community or parish council six months to raise the cash needed to buy it before it is put on the open market.

A Stafford Borough Council review of the listing decision said the owners requested it be reconsidered because “there is no prospect of the property being marketed as a public house in the future as the proposal is to develop the site to provide new housing.”

The document added: “The property is now closed and has ceased trading as a public house. It was purchased in good faith following advertisement of having scope for a range of different uses subject to the granting of relevant permissions. There is no scope for the property to continue as a public house.”

Stafford Borough Council has not yet made a decision on the planning application submitted last year. It has been called in by Councillor Mike Smith for consideration by the authority’s planning committee.

Objectors to the proposals include the Save the Red Lion Community Action Group.

They said: “The impact on the local community of the Red Lion’s closure cannot be overstated. Many local residents, especially those living on their own or with transportation issues, have really suffered from the lack of social contact. The routine of village life has been massively disrupted by no longer having any community meeting place.

“We have amassed a wealth of backing – 139 households and 317 people – funding and evidence to successfully support the ACV, fight the planning (application) and purchase the Red Lion as a not-for-profit organisation for the benefit of the community. We have 14 local residents who have pledged to become shareholders and 10 more who have expressed a definite interest.

“We aim to use any profits made to expand the number of uses of the Red Lion and its land, including a playground, shop, venue for regular farmers’ markets and food traders, as well as a space for community services such as a mobile library, mobile NHS facilities and school bus stop to name but a few.”

But a design and access statement submitted as part of the application said: “The proposal will provide much needed houses for local people and will make best use of previously developed land and an otherwise redundant building which forms an important element within the local street scene. By making use of previously developed land, pressure on Green Belt land will be reduced in other parts of the borough.

“The proposed dwellings will be designed to very high standard which will make them fit for purpose for many years to come. They will make a positive contribution to the settlement as whole that would otherwise be left with a large empty piece of land in the heart of the community which could become the target for vandalism and other anti-social behaviour.”