Not time to all last orders at Reepham’s The Crown, says planning inspectorate

PUBLISHED: 16:20 03 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:20 03 January 2014

A planning inspector has ruled that last orders will not be called at one of a town centre’s last remaining pubs.

Garron and Helen Monk’s appeal to turn The Crown pub in Reepham into a family home has been dismissed.

They had appealed after Broadland District Council’s planning committee turned down their application in February last year on the grounds that it would be a loss of a community facility and business.

The couple had argued trade had dwindled at the pub and there was a question mark over its viability.

However, planning inspector Ahsan Ghafoor, who visited the Ollands Road venue in December, upheld the decision to refuse planning permission, saying “the presented evidence does not show that last orders can be called at The Crown”.

The decision has been hailed as a victory for Reepham and its community.

In his report, Mr Ghafoor notes how The Crown’s nearest competitor, The King’s Arms, is just hundreds of metres away from the site; however, he acknowledges that The King’s Arms is “likely to serve a different catchment and type of customer, because of its town centre location and setting”.

He says the loss of the “valued facility” would have a “detrimental effect upon the long-term well-being of the community”.

Mr Ghafoor also recognises Reepham is earmarked for development, with 200 homes planned for the town, and states that The Crown has “the potential to develop its family-friendly environment” and it could cater for the “specific needs of the local community and for other nearby rural settlements”.

As part of their appeal, Mr and Mrs Monk had asserted that owners Punch Taverns were subsidising the current operation by reducing the annual rent from around £20,000 to £12,000 with a non-repair lease, and that the total annual barrelage has declined year-on-year since 2008.

Nevertheless, Mr Ghafoor found there was no specific documentary information showing the actual costs for running and maintaining the business since 2008 and says in his report that “loss and profit could not be assessed because the accounts had not been submitted for his consideration”.

Concluding, he says: “The information does not show that the commercial proposition is no longer viable or that no licensee could reasonably be expected to make a living from the enterprise.

“The submitted information does not show that there is no reasonable prospect for the short, medium or long-term viability of the business. I find that the development would result in the loss of an important community facility contrary to both local and national planning policies.”

Chris Wheeler, a councillor for Reepham, said the decision was “brilliant” for the town.

He said: “It’s a victory for the community, common sense and charity, and ultimately for Reepham.”

No one from Punch Taverns was available to comment.

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