A plan to bring a dead village pub back to life by building four houses on the same site and injecting the profits into a big refurbishment have been reluctantly dismissed by councillors.
A meeting on Monday was told that officers at Bedford Borough Council have not been convinced that plans for the future of the Chequers Inn at Yelden would stack up for more than a few years.
After a year of negotiations the planning committee was finally called on to decide Frank Langley’s application for extensions and alterations to the pub as well as building two three bed and two four bed open market homes on the 0.47 hectare plot.
Planning officer Jonathan Warner said the council is “deeply concerned” that if the business failed they would face a pub conversion plan in a few years.
This would end up being a lose-lose with four new homes being built in the open countryside for little gain.
The committee was told that the open countryside boundary sits between the pub and its land, and the new homes would be classified as “open countryside”.
There are also other policies weighing against the proposal, including the impact it would have on Yelden Castle, a protected scheduled monument.
The council received 30 letters of support for the plans from local residents, as well as two who were against it.
The committee was told that to approve the plan, there would have to be significant benefits to outweigh the policy objections.
Janine Laver, the council’s development manager said: “We’d need something quite comprehensively different and not just a tweak here and there.”
Cllr Alison Foster (Cons, Harrold) said: “It’s with great reluctance that I agree with the recommendation but I would like to encourage the applicant to come back with another scheme that perhaps might be more acceptable.”
Ward Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) added: “It gives me a heavy heart to see a rural pub being closed but they need to come back with a more sensible, not overpowering design of the houses.”
Councillors refused the application by six votes to nil, after which Cllr Jon Abbott (Lib Dem, Oakley), who was chairing the meeting added his words of encouragement to the applicant.
“I want to encourage the applicants to look at something which is more in keeping with the area and to potentially come back with what is considered a more realistic business plan,” he said.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter