'Destructive' bid to convert village pub into holiday let approved by West Norfolk councillors
Councillors have today backed a bid to turn a village pub into a holiday let, despite campaigners warning it would be a “destructive” act.
The decision on the future of the Five Bells in Upwell came only weeks after the building was formally listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
But objectors’ hopes the building could return to its original use were dashed when West Norfolk Council’s planning committee voted nine to five to approve the retrospective application this morning.
A decision on the proposal to turn the site into a holiday let capable of accommodating up to 20 people in nine bedrooms was deferred in August for legal reasons.
The borough council has since approved a bid for ACV registration, though the meeting at Lynn's town hall heard that was being challenged.
But Heather Utteridge, speaking on behalf of objectors, said the designation was a key planning consideration.
She told members: “It would be good if you did something constructive and great, not destructive, miserable and unwarranted.”
But Tim Slater, for the applicants, said the ACV bid was “flawed” and the designation would only apply if the site was put up for sale.
He added: “My client has no intention of selling the property.”
He also argued the proposal met policy guidelines and the vision of Upwell’s neighbourhood plan for bringing tourism to the area.
But committee member Terry Parish suggested a housing application would follow in the near future if the proposal was approved.
Questions were also raised about the pub’s bar and other associated infrastructure being left in place.
Officials said the site’s alcohol sale licence was not being retained, though beer barrels could be connected to pumps if guests asked.
The meeting was also told licensing officers were satisfied with the proposed arrangements.
But Colin Sampson said: “At the moment, it looks like the current owners are going to get away with having a private bar for anyone who wants it to make merry. That can’t be right.”
And Sandra Squire warned it risked increasing problems of anti-social behaviour which the owners said they had experienced while running the site as a pub.
She also suggested the pub was not viable was because the owners had failed to deliver what the community wanted.
But deputy mayor Lesley Bambridge said that, while she "hated" the idea of a pub closing, continuing use of the building was critical.
She said: “I was brought up in a pub that is now a Chinese restaurant. It kept a very old building in use. We need to keep buildings in a good state.”
Tony Bubb added: “At the moment, approving this is the best option we have before us.”