Last-ditch lifeline for threatened town pub

PUBLISHED: 15:19 10 January 2013 | UPDATED: 18:05 10 January 2013

The Railway Tavern, Holt. 

The Railway Tavern, Holt. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2012

A threatened “working man’s pub” has been given a stay of execution after a plan to convert it was deferred today (Thursday).

Capricorn Estates Partnership, which owns the Railway Tavern on Station Road, Holt, submitted the change of use application to North Norfolk District Council (NNDC).

The business wants to close the grade II listed pub and turn it into a ground floor shop with two flats above, change a barn to two homes and build two more in the yard.

Members of the NNDC planning committee voted to defer the proposal so tenant Tony Groom can show figures to prove the business is viable. Officers had recommended it for approval.

Many of the councillors spoke in support of keeping the pub and Philip High, who represents Holt, described it as a “working man’s pub”.

Mike Baker, who also represents Holt, said: “Any move away from that being a pub is going to change the frontage, which is an integral part of Holt.”

He added the plan would be “a recipe for disaster” with regard to an increase in traffic from the development.

“This is a typical example of someone who has little or no contact with the town,” Mr Baker added.

Councillor Anthea Sweeney said: “I feel we should have a proper pub for normal people in Holt.”

Members of the committee said other Holt food and drink businesses, were too expensive and the Railway Tavern was the only place where customers can play darts and pool.

The developer claimed trade has slumped to an unsustainable level at the pub and that bids to sell it as an inn had failed to find a buyer.

They added turnover has halved since 2006.

Rupert Kirby, a partner in Capricorn Estates Partnership, said at the end of the meeting: “A deferral is disappointing as the committee acknowledged it was difficult to find a planning justification to go against the officers’ recommendation.”

Mr Groom, who has been a tenant at the pub since 2009, said at the end: “The debate showed the level of local support and the level of localism. I think I can show that the pub is a viable business.”

He told committee members he believed the pub could make £121,000 gross profit each year.

Andy Turner, Holt town councillor who spoke against the plan to councillors, said at the end of the debate: “Leave our pub alone.”

Holt town councillor Jono Read, who organised a Facebook group in support of the pub, said: “This morning’s planning meeting was very encouraging and I’m delighted the pub received such support in councillors’ comments.

“The fight goes on but I am pleased that the councillors have seen the potential for the Railway Tavern and believe that, unlike the developer’s claims, this pub is viable.

“We will keep up the campaign and I encourage all residents to continue to use their local as it remains open for business.”

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