Picture-perfect Surrey Hills pub saved from closure in 'remarkable' U-turn

The Volunteer (Image Google)
The Volunteer (Image Google) -Credit:Street View

A beloved village pub that has nestled in the Surrey Hills since the 16th century has been saved. The Volunteer in Sutton Abinger, near Dorking, is in the very rural green belt area around Leith Hill.

Plans had been to in place to turn it into holiday lets that would have put an end to the classic Surrey inn for good. Now, after a bit of toing and froing between Mole Valley District Council and its current owners, the picture postcard watering hole will form part of the new plans.

The owners were granted permission to build an extension and convert part of the building into two self-catered holiday rentals, together with two self-contained garden pods. The public house was owned and operated by Dorset-based brewery, Hall and Woodhouse, until 2022 when it closed due to financial circumstances. It has since been bought by the applicant.

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Previous plans that would have led to the loss of the pub were rejected over a lack of evidence the community asset was no longer required. The reconfigured proposals retain almost all of the existing pub at ground floor level. Development Management Committee chairperson, Councillor Phil Hammond said: "The nub of it last time was the impact that we thought on the bar and public house was too great.”

Cllr Margaret Cooksey added: “I think it's been remarkable really that the developers listened to what the committee had to say and have taken note. There are some disadvantages, the fact that the extensions comes out further, but it's not as deep.

“I don't particularly care for it but its part and parcel of the swings and roundabouts in this process but what we’ve achieved is to maintain the public house as an asset of community value that's going to function in the same way as it has in the past and the building won't be converted.”

The committee also put in place a condition preventing any of the holiday lets from becoming permanent residencies. Cllr Roger Adams. added: “This is a very very attractive part of Surrey and its a sort of area that would well attract visitors, holiday makers and people coming into this area would add to the economy.”

Aidan Gardner, senior planning officer at the council told the meeting the site would be self-policed with regards to noise given its “very rural” location. He said: “I sense after the hours of darkness it would be policed in the sense that people wouldn’t be going out in the garden itself much because the ambient level of light would be so low”

Cllr Hammond added that thought there would be amplified music at the site these would be at background noise levels, to ensure there wouldn't be a “heavy metal concert” at the site.