Shropshire Star

Plan to turn pub into house to go to inspector as owner and villagers remain at loggerheads

A planning inspector is set to decide whether a village pub can by turned into a house, after the council rejected plans.

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The Cleveland Arms in High Ercall.

Telford & Wrekin Council rejected a planning application to turn the Cleveland Arms in High Ercall into one house in September last year, after its planning committee discussed the plans.

A planning inspector will be now decide the outcome after an appeal hearing on June 27 held at AFC Telford United.

Ercall Magna Parish Council is backing a move to keep the village pub, which has been closed since 2016, and the Cleveland Phoenix Charity (CPC) is a ‘community interest group’ interested in buying the property for that purpose.

Hotel Solutions prepared a review of appeal case on behalf of Telford & Wrekin Council and concluded that ‘they have seen’ no new evidence contrary to the council’s decision to reject the application last year.

“The Cleveland Arms was not given fair exposure to the market, given the timing, the pricing and the challenges presented by the owner and agent to interested parties around access, demonstration of funding, dissuasion of intent and lack of follow up,” said the review document.

“This and the state of the property and its continued demise at the hands of the owners’ alterations were perceived by several interested parties as being part of making the property deliberately unattractive for sale.

“All of this leads us to conclude that the pub wasn’t given a fair chance to find a new owner in its current/associated community use. Our updated consultations in March 2023 found continued interest from several parties.

“This hasn’t moved on because the pub is no longer being marketed, even in passive form.”

However, applicant and pub owner John Hickinbottom is appealing against the council’s decision and disputes claims that offers were made to buy the pub.

He claims that the three offers received also planned to change the building into residential use and not to remain as a pub or community asset.

In his supporting document ahead of next month’s appeal, Mr Hickinbottom claims that the building will need more than £1million of investment to put it into a ‘fit and suitable condition ready to trade’.

“The expert opinions from hospitality specialists, commercial agents and the Valuation Office Agency say that there is no viable future in the building in its existing and former use as a public house,” concludes Mr Hickinbottom in his statement.

“The level of investment required is beyond any economic sense to an operator/developer, the property is uneconomic to repair in its current use class as the repair costs are so out of proportion to the rental value as a public house.”

Ercall Magna Parish Council chairman Kevin Connor says that residents in the area are ‘quite clear’ that they want the pub re-opened.

He said: “Discounting the six comments made by the owners in support of their own application, the vast majority of respondents to the subject planning application objected to change of use. It is clear that residents’ aspirations to restore the Cleveland Arms into some form of community facility offering food, drink and social activities remains undiminished.”