Campaigners face anxious wait as appeal over pub plans starts

LAST STAND: Campaigners including Tim and Gavin Fance (far right and second right) will find out the result of Punch Taverns' appeal in early July.
LAST STAND: Campaigners including Tim and Gavin Fance (far right and second right) will find out the result of Punch Taverns' appeal in early July.

Campaigners fighting to save an 18th-century village pub face a five-week wait to hear whether its owners can tear it down and build a food store.

Punch Taverns’ plans to demolish the Highbury Barn in Canhams Road and build a £1million retail unit were refused by Babergh District Council in December.

At an appeal hearing on Wednesday, planning inspector Nigel Burrows heard submissions from agents Jes Dunlop and Simon Shaw, of D2 Planning, Graham Chamberlain, the council’s case officer, and Tim and Gavin Fance, who have been fighting the plans on behalf of residents.

Mr Burrows identified two main issues – whether the pub is an important local feature and heritage asset, and the effect of the retail scheme on the area’s character.

Mr Chamberlain said: “The pub is important to the street scene and character of Great Cornard and is one of the few historic buildings in the area.”

Mr Dunlop argued that the historical context of the building had been lost.

“It is now surrounded by a very large residential estate and the building itself has changed significantly,” he said. “With the other additions, its contribution is limited.”

Tim Fance, whose parents owned the pub in the 1970s, said: “Properties have been built around it but that has made the pub more a part of the community.”

Gavin Fance claimed the pub had been “wound down” by Punch Taverns, with landlords not receiving support.

Mr Dunlop blamed a lack of demand. He said: “If the local support is not there, Punch can’t make it sustainable. Closing a pub is a last resort.”

Mr Chamberlain contested that the modern design of the retail unit was not in keeping with the area and the council would prefer the existing building was redeveloped.

A decision is expected in five weeks’ time.