Reepham Town Council has strongly objected to plans to convert The Crown into a private house.
At a packed Council meeting on 9 January, Councillors rejected the proposed planning application to change the use of the public house from commercial to residential.
The meeting was attended by more than 50 residents, who voiced their concern about losing a valued community facility as well as a source of local employment.
Many customers spoke passionately in support for The Crown: “Our pub is part and parcel of our community and we want to keep it. Reepham is a hub of family businesses, and The Crown is a social hub for the community. It is the only traditional pub in the town.”
Rex Warner from the Reepham Green Team argued that the building should be retained for commercial use: “If the business is not viable, there may be other options to support local employment, such as opening a restaurant.”
Norfolk County Council and Broadland District Councillor James Joyce explained that the proposed planning application relating to the change of use would have to prove that the business is not sustainable as it is.
However, according to the landlord, Philip Shaw, The Crown is a viable business. “The pub is making money,” he told the meeting. “And it is the only pub in Reepham with a beer garden and facilities for families. The owners, Punch Taverns, want to sell it because they are in debt.”
Staffordshire-based Punch Taverns has just put another 65 pubs on the market for sale as part of its longer-term non-core estate disposal programme. The sale is part of its target to sell around 400 non-core pubs this financial year ending August 2013.
It is reported that, like many British pub companies, Punch has been hit hard by the country’s double-dip recession and is trying to cut £2.1 billion of debt built up before the economic downturn.
Mr Shaw also pointed out that the Ollands Road pub is used by various sports and social clubs, as well as cyclists and walkers using the nearby Marriott’s Way; it also helps to raise money for charity.
The current planning application is to convert the pub into a five-bedroom residential dwelling. The applicants, Mr and Mrs Garron and Helen Monk of Land of Green Ginger, Dereham Road, Reepham, say the car park will be converted into a newly formed garden.
However, the possibility is that, once a change of use has been approved, a further application will be made to build additional dwellings in the existing garden and car park.
Town Councillors were unanimous in their opposition to the change of use, although Cllr Edwin Rose warned that if the planning application was refused, Punch Taverns could simply close the pub. “We don’t want to see an empty, locked-up building,” he said.
Cllr Giles Cutts believed it would not be in the community’s interest to change the use of the building. “The only ones to benefit will be Punch Taverns, who might improve their balance sheet, and the potential buyers,” he stated.
Cllr Lynn Hilton said it is good that Reepham has a pub that is not in the town centre. Cllr Mike Cowdrey added: “It is quite clear the community does not want a change of use.”
Part of the package to attract people to Reepham will be the hospitality industry, and with rumours about the downsizing of the Old Brewery House, the potential closure of The Crown could impact on the town’s businesses.
Town Council chairman Les Paterson said the timing of the application was unfortunate in view of the rejuvenation project that has just started. He pointed out that The Crown is one of only three establishments open in the evening. “Closure would mean the loss of six employees, part-time and full-time, and affect the social cohesion of the town,” he said.
Broadland District Councillor and Town Council vice chairman Chris Wheeler commented: “This is all about a community pub, which is part of the lifeblood of people in Reepham. The change of use for The Crown is wrong for so many reasons. We need to fight this and put our stamp on the community and not let Broadland [District Council] make all the decisions.”
Residents are advised to make their comments on this planning application to Broadland District Council.
Send your comments to arrive no later than 29 January 2013:
- Online via the Planning Explorer using planning application reference number 20121769
- By post to the Planning Administration Team, Broadland District Council, Thorpe Lodge, 1 Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich NR7 0DU, remembering to include the planning application reference number 20121769
- By e-mail to the Planning Administration Team, remembering to include the planning application reference number 20121769
Please note: any comments you send will be available to view by the public.
The planning application is due to be discussed at the Broadland District Council Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday 27 February 2013, when members of the public will have the opportunity to present their views as part of the decision making process.
The meeting starts at 9.30 am, but it is not possible to say exactly when The Crown application will come before this committee.
Should you wish to speak at this meeting, please contact the committee team, who will be able to advise you of the arrangements involved.