Gayton pub campaigners slam new homes plan

The Rampant Horse Pub site at Gayton ANL-151022-110717009
The Rampant Horse Pub site at Gayton ANL-151022-110717009
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Campaigners who fought to save a village pub from being converted into housing have hit out at plans for even more homes in the area.

Freebridge Community Housing has confirmed it is developing initial proposals for the land behind the old Rampant Horse premises in Gayton.

The move was revealed after the group won planning permission to convert the pub itself into four homes.

Officials say the latest plans will provide urgently needed new homes in the village.

But members of the Save the Rampant Horse campaign, who battled to keep the pub as a community asset, claim they amount to a new mini-estate in an inappropriate area.

And they have urged villagers to fight to protect the area in an open letter.

It said: “If you don’t guard and fight for your own village and all that is precious about it, no-one else will.”

Freebridge chief executive Tony Hall said: “We will shortly be putting forward a further outline planning application to build 24 homes on the land behind the Rampant Horse.

“If successful, it would see us continuing to support the needs of the community by providing much needed housing in the area.

“This would see both affordable homes for rent and housing for sale.”

But opponents claim the proposals would amount to a “highly populated annexe” of the nearby Springvale estate.

The campaigners’ letter insisted they agreed there was a need for additional housing.

But it continued: “Instead of cheaper and affordable new builds on the outskirts of Gayton, or even buying up a few existing run-down sites to build up, Freebridge clearly thinks the best way to expand Gayton is to install a smaller-scale Springvale right in the heart of an already bustling village centre.

“This is the bumbling, nay disturbing, actions of an organisation that our local communities are having to deal with.”

The pub, which was formerly owned by Enterprise Inns and closed for the last time in 2012, was bought by Freebridge last year with the intention to develop the site for housing.

An initial application, rejected by West Norfolk Council last September, was due to be the subject of an informal hearing next week ahead of an expected appeal.

However, a fresh application was approved by the authority three weeks ago, partly because of the contribution it would make to housing supplies, following the council’s High Court defeat in a housing case in July.

Officials also said additional information provided by Freebridge about the viability of the pub and how it was marketed had addressed concerns raised about the original scheme.

But the campaigners say that the figures Freebridge relied on to justify its argument that the pub was not viable were incomplete and the full picture showed the business could have been maintained.

The letter claimed the company should be held accountable for future road collisions around the site because of a blind corner that restricts visibility for drivers either entering or leaving the area. Concerns were raised on the issue during the latest planning process.

It also criticised Freebridge for “leapfrogging” the appeal with the new applicating, adding: “Freebridge’s interests, despite their noble description of “community-minded” practice, areall about themselves and their targets.”

Mr Hall said: “We understand the disappointment that some feel about the closure, and will continue to work closely with the local community as the development continues.”