Stagsden pub house plan blocked by government inspector

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The Royal George at Stagsden (image: Google Maps)

A village pub near Bedford cannot be turned into a house, a planning inspector has ruled.

Even though the Royal George in High Street, Stagsden, was unviable from 2012 to 2015, inspector Rachel Walmsley has told the developer that they haven’t provided enough evidence that it could not be viable.

David Barker, of Priory House Estates appealed to the Government after Bedford Borough Council rejected plans to turn the pub into a house in May 2020.

In her decision letter the inspector said: “It is not clear how widely or for how long the pub was marketed.

“Furthermore, some of the marketing was carried out discreetly for reasons that are understood.

“But as a result I cannot say confidently that the opportunity to buy or tenant the pub has been fully explored and therefore the concern for viability raised by some prospective purchasers/tenants is the determining reason for a lack of interest.”

She added: “Indeed, as the evidence before me identifies, ‘as yet, no-one has made an application for the tenancy’ which to my mind does not rule out the possibility of a tenant or purchaser being found.”

The council has a policy to protect local pubs as an “essential local shop”, which is supported by national planning policy.

The inspector, who visited Stagsden on February 9, also rejected a letter from estate agents Satchells which referred to the village being too small for a pub which was inappropriately located.

“I note that the village sustains some services and facilities which suggests that there is financial activity within the village,” she added.

There was also “nothing in the evidence” which evaluates the effect of the pandemic.

“I have found insufficient evidence to justify the loss of the pub as a community facility,” she said.

In support of the plan she said that the development would have made use of a vacant building that is in a poor state of repair. It would also improve the quality of the area.

“Whilst I have concluded that the development would not have a harmful effect on a non-designated heritage asset, this and other matters raised in support do not outweigh the harm that would be caused as a result of the loss of a community facility,” she said in her decision letter dated February 18.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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