Fear for Old Ferry Inn pub over housing plan

The Old Ferry Inn at Bodinnick near Fowey
-Credit: (Image: Google StreetView)

Punters in a riverside village are increasingly worried their beloved pub could soon be lost if plans to split part of it off for a home - for the second time - are approved. Regulars to the Old Ferry Inn in Bodinnick near Fowey fear for the future of their local pub after the landlords applied to transform part of it into a residential dwelling, which they believe would kill its viability as a pub once and for all.

Landlords Paul Worswick and Michael West have filed a change of use planning application with Cornwall Council to turn part of the pub into a home, saying that's the only way for the pub to remain viable as a business. However locals worry further reducing the size of the pub will lead to its eventual demise.

A design statement filed by Andrew Thomas Architectural Consultants on behalf of the Old Ferry Inn, said the reason behind the proposed development is down to a loss of trade in the past two years and increased staffing costs and also blamed Airbnb for a drop in visitor numbers. They said the only way to save the pub is to reduce its size.

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They said: "Trading has been very challenging at the Old Ferry Inn and throughout Cornwall since the pandemic. In 2022 our occupancy has been down by 40 per cent and our food and drinks takings down a similar amount.

"Visitor numbers are significantly down in Cornwall and there has been a huge increase in the number of Airbnbs in Cornwall which has significantly impacted our business. For the last two years the cost of employing staff has increased greatly and since the start of the pandemic there has been an exodus from the hospitality trade."

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They added: "The cost of living crisis has hit us in both decreased trade as well as significantly increasing our costs of food, drinks, utilities and interest charges. We are trading at a loss and need to find a way to set the inn up in a sustainable way."

As part of the proposal the 1960s extension would be taken away and sold as a private house which would leave the Inn's original four rooms intact with the bar area continuing to operate but five rooms would be lost. The scheme (PA24/02259) has received 165 objections.

Frequent visitor the area Lesley Arnett wrote: "The Old Ferry Inn has seen substantial changes over the past few years sadly to its detriment. There is now only part of the original building being used as a public house/restaurant/guest rooms. Permission has already been granted for part to be converted to residential use. This further application will deny visitors any view over the River Fowey and Fowey."

Local resident Tyler Rubidge said: "The Old Ferry Inn is a vital community asset and this proposal will endanger its future viability by reducing it to less than a third of its original size. The pub plays an important economic factor in a small rural community employing local people but also bringing in visitors to the area. It has been successfully contributing to the economy of Bodinnick for centuries."

Penny McBride added: "The community needs space to meet and socialise. There is no other pub for miles on this side of the river. Community assets in rural areas need preserving and are especially important in winter months when people can feel more isolated."

The Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) Kernow has also become involved. A spokesperson for the campaign said the Old Ferry Inn was purchased by the current owners in 2021 but their plans to transform the 400-year-old pub into a boutique hotel did not work out and so they changed their business model after reopening in March 2023 albeit with much reduced opening hours.

The spokesperson added: "The Inn is situated on the famous Hall walk and has lots of passing visitors but it is usually closed. In 2022 they applied to convert part of the building into a residential dwelling. This permission was granted and the locals were told it was the only option to keep the business viable.

"The owner is yet to sell this part of the pub despite having completed the building works. However another application has been submitted with the intention of splitting the pub even further leaving a small bar and family room whilst the remainder of the pub with it's fabulous riverside views is converted to another residential dwelling. This will kill the viability of the pub.

"Amazingly the pub is not listed. The locals who use the pub regularly have made their objections clear and the owner has told them to put a proposition together to buy him out. Those who use and love the pub are keen to gather as much support as possible to save this vital community asset. They are a rural community and there isn't another pub for miles."

They added: "There has been a ferry across the Fowey estuary at Bodinnick since at least the 14th century. Perhaps much much longer, because it carried the ancient coastal highway from Cremyll on the Tamar – one of three major routes running east to west through Cornwall from earliest times.

"Bodinnick exists as a settlement because of this ferry crossing. And ferry passages everywhere, throughout history, had their accompanying inns – or ‘passage houses’. Here, people sheltered as they watched and waited for the boat, and weary travellers stranded by foul weather or nightfall could find refuge. The Old Ferry Inn at Bodinnick continues that ancient tradition."