Fight to save pub ends in joy for regulars

PLEASED AS PUNCH: From left, Ryan Fance, Tim Fance, Joe Hill and Gavin Fance at The Highbury Barn which they have been campaigning to save.
PLEASED AS PUNCH: From left, Ryan Fance, Tim Fance, Joe Hill and Gavin Fance at The Highbury Barn which they have been campaigning to save.

Campaigners fighting to save a Great Cornard pub are claiming victory after the owner’s appeal against the refusal of permission for a supermarket was dismissed.

Punch Taverns, owner of The Highbury Barn in Canhams Lane, had contested Babergh District Council’s decision to refuse permission for a £1million supermarket unit in December.

Planning inspector Nigel Burrows published his decision to dismiss the appeal on Thursday, having heard representations from Punch Taverns’ agents, council case officer Graham Chamberlin and campaigners Gavin and Tim Fance, as well as visiting the site on May 29.

Gavin Fance, a Sycamore Road resident, former regular at The Highbury Barn and grandson of 1970s landlords Del and Jean, said: “This is definitely good news – we are really pleased with the outcome.”

Mr Fance launched the Save the Barn campaign and started a petition which attracted around 300 signatures opposing the redevelopment of the site, which Co-Operative Foodstores was understood to be interested in occupying.

“Everything has come together with the help of everyone who had been involved in the campaign, which has given us the result we wanted,” said Mr Fance.

“Stopping the planning application was the start of the process really, it is now about trying to get the pub reopened and back serving the community.”

In his decision notice, Mr Burrows said: “I have found the public house is a heritage asset of local significance; therefore, in the absence of a satisfactory scheme for the redevelopment of the site, I must conclude there is no justification for its demolition.”

He said the national planning policy framework states that “pursuing sustainable development”, which it encourages, includes improving the environment and residents’ quality of life, and Punch Taverns’ proposal “would be inconsistent with these objectives”.

Mr Burrows explained that, although the company cited the creation of 35 jobs and investment in the area, as well as the fact it will not be reopening the pub, the plans “would not outweigh the harm caused by the demolition of the public house and the adverse impact the retail unit would have on the character and appearance of the area”.

He concluded by saying: “It is not obvious to me that the objections to the scheme could be overcome by any reasonable or appropriate planning conditions.”

Pam White, chairman of Great Cornard Parish Council planning committee, which had objected to the plans, said: “I am glad we won’t lose the building, although there may be some mixed feelings because of it being an empty site.”

A spokesman for Punch Taverns said: “The Highbury Barn has been marketed for sale as a freehold pub for well over 12 months. During that time, we have not received a realistic offer to buy the property.

“We took the decision to apply for demolition in order to improve our options for sale. We are considering all our options which may include an appeal for change of use of the property rather than complete demolition.”