Appeal victory heralds new future for Ploughshare pub in Beeston
The long-running saga affecting the future of a Norfolk pub could finally be resolved after a government inspector approved plans to build housing on its beer garden.
A proposal to build two houses on the grounds of the Ploughshare, in Beeston, was rejected by Breckland Council in January following opposition from villagers about its potential impact on their community hub.
But that refusal has been overturned on appeal by an independent inspector, whose report says: 'It is very common in villages for dwellings to be sited close to public houses, and appear to happily co-exist.'
The building's owner, developer Rob Scammell, said he hoped the decision would 'draw a line' under the previous uncertainty and secure the long-term viability of the resurgent business.
Mr Scammell said the development, expected to begin within the next two years, will free up �60-�70,000 of investment for improvements to the pub, which would happen before the house-building.
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The outline plans show two detached houses on the beer garden to the rear of the pub, with the outdoor seating moved to an area of decking, connecting the function room to a reinstated side entrance door.
The planned alterations to the parking area would give 21 spaces, while part of the permission allows for an under-used kitchen at the front of the building to potentially be re-invented as a new village shop or post office.
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Mr Scammell said: 'I am delighted with this decision after two years of battling.
'I accept that some people didn't want to see houses there, and they had every right to object. But this draws a line – it is time to move on and it will allow us to invest in these improvements to the pub. The trade has changed hugely in the last 20 years and if we don't move with the times, we don't move at all.'
The Ploughshare endured several turbulent years of closures before it was re-opened in December 2010.
Since then, the pub has thrived under the stewardship of tenant landlord Jonathan Loome, who joined in April and invested in a new commercial kitchen, a locally-sourced food menu and a varied live music programme.
He said: 'The people of Beeston have supported this place fantastically since it re-opened and the last thing we want is for the doors to close again and leave them with nowhere to go.
'There is nothing we can do about the development, so we have to work together to find a solution which can benefit us and the village at the same time. I welcome any investment into the property that can help to maintain it as a business. Our ultimate goal is to keep the place trading and keep the doors open.'
Mr Scammell submitted four variations of the housing plan in total. All were vociferously opposed by villagers, who were concerned about crowded car parking, loss of outdoor family space and the potential impact any noise complaints from the occupants of new housing could have on the pub's viability.
In his report, planning inspector Terrence Kemmann-Lane says: 'I cannot see that the housing development might lead to the loss of the facility because of conflict between the two uses.'
But Paul Marchant, who lives on Back Lane, said his objections remained unchanged despite the inspector's ruling.
'It is a sad day,' he said. 'Of all the plans, this was the worst one. It will mean there is no green area for people to let their kids run around, and nowhere to put a marquee if you wanted to run a wedding. There will be complaints about noise, and there will be arguments over access. It will really restrict the pub.
'It is a great shame, because Jonathan is doing a super job and is getting lots of support from the village.'