Villagers given six months to save pub

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Villagers hoping to save the only pub in Hitcham have been granted six months by the district council to submit a community bid.

At Babergh District Council’s planning committee last week, councillors voted to defer the application to change the use of the pub into a house, despite an officer’s recommendation to grant planning permission.

The decision has delayed the final outcome for six months to allow the community asset bid submitted shortly before the meeting to be examined.

Prior to the meeting, Hitcham Parish Council had lodged an objection to the application on the grounds of the village’s need for a pub in the community.

Around 10 residents attended the planning committee meeting to show their concern.

Parish council vice-chairman Allan Scott said he was pleased that the council’s decision had granted them some time to investigate their options.

“It is a step in the right direction,” he said.

“The problem is we have a broken relationship between the community and the landlord.

“It’s clear the village wants a pub, but clearly it needs to be managed in a very different way.”

Mr Scott said the next stage would be to call a larger meeting to discuss the reality of a community bid.

“We had a huge response from villagers in favour of keeping the pub,” he said,

“The next step is getting all of those people together in a room at a village meeting to try to get the campaign moving.

“It should be a village effort.”

Before the meeting, parish council members collated individual responses from villagers as to whether they would like to retain the White Horse.

Out of the 80 responses received, only three residents said they did not want to keep the village’s only pub.

In last week’s application, owners Richard and Ann Lewis indicated that business was struggling with only 27 villagers using the pub regularly over a 12-month period.

It is understood that Mr and Mrs Lewis are hoping to retire.