Last chance to have your say on bid to change 'much-loved' Gloucestershire pub into home

There is only a week left for people to have their say on plans to change a much-loved Gloucestershire pub into a private home. The Old Neighbourhood Inn at Midway in Chalford Hill near Stroud could soon be converted into a four bed home.

The inn’s main building dates from 1850 but last traded as a pub around September 2022 when the applicants say it closed due to poor trading conditions. The current owners bought the property in February last year to add to their portfolio of pubs, the nearest being the Vine Tree in Randwick.

According to the planning statement they began looking for tenants and they also put the pub up for sale but there has been very limited interest in it. But the owners say its future as an inn appears unviable and a change of use to a home won’t result in any harm and would improve its appearance.

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Residents are disappointed but unsurprised to see a planning application submitted for a change of use. They say the pub was sold before it went to auction as originally advertised, denying anyone locally the opportunity to bid.

Recognising the threat to its existence, residents were successful in getting the pub recognised as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and the Chalford Hill Community Benefit Society was constituted as a means of raising the funds needed to acquire, renovate and re-open the pub.

However, they claim current owner has refused offers over and above the market value of the Old Neighbourhood Inn and has split the car park from the title deeds in a move mirroring what he has done in other locations; apparently designed to circumnavigate the status of the ACV, sell off the space for development and undermine the ability to run a pub.

Neighbour Claire Mitchell said: “Anyone who loves their local pub will understand that The Old Neighbourhood wasn’t just a pub, it was at the heart of our community. We miss the sounds of music and children playing in the garden, cosy winter nights by the fire and lazy summer afternoons with friends.

"The car park hosted a weekly market and community events, was a safe place where parents could park and walk their children to and from the village school, as well as providing much needed car parking space in our otherwise narrow roads. We need it all back!”

Tim Woodfine, Chair of the Chalford Hill community benefit society, said the planning application for change of use is based on the weak premise that no-one is interested and that the pub would not be viable. “Neither of these assumptions hold water – there is exceptionally strong community support for acquiring and re-opening the Old Neighbourhood Inn and we have developed a robust business case for a vibrant pub and community hub.

“While our plans are informed by our audience and local opportunities, we’re buoyed by the fact that community- run pubs up and down the country succeed. It naturally takes time for a voluntary group to draw up and enact responsible plans for a project of this magnitude and complexity, but we’re right on track.

Dozens of residents are opposed to plans to convert the Old Neighbourhood Inn into a private home
Dozens of residents are opposed to plans to convert the Old Neighbourhood Inn into a private home -Credit:Submitted

“As it is, members of our community have already pledged sufficient funding to purchase the pub at a reasonable market value, but so far offers have been rebuffed by the owner, who seems to have other ideas”.

District Councillor Tricia Watson (G, Chalford) said the village has lost shops, a post office, community halls, green spaces, bus services, even a primary school since she moved there 15 years ago. "Since getting elected in the throes of the pandemic, my council case work has been primarily responding to the outcry as yet another vital service or facility is taken away against our will.

"We are sick of outside developers ripping the heart out of our communities to profit from speculative purchases, and of the games they play to get their way. This time, there is great determination in our close-knit community to reinstate this space as a village centre.

"The Chalford Hill Benefit Society’s plans for the Old Neighbourhood are really exciting and would bring tangible social and economic benefits that far outweigh having another house on a narrow street with less parking and public space. Let’s look forward to the day we can once again raise a glass in our very own pub garden!”

The plans consultation runs until April 27 and residents can comment by searching for application S.24/0485/FUL on Stroud District Council’s planning portal.