Villagers lose fight to save pub from conversion to houses

Villagers have lost their battle to prevent The Foresters Arms in East Hoathly being converted to houses.

An officer’s report to Wealden Council’s planning committee, south, said the council did not have a five-year housing land supply and therefore the application must be determined in accordance with the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The report said: “Whilst the loss of the pub is regretted, it is not considered possible to resist this loss, due both to the lack of adopted local policies to formally test such matters, and because there is another pub in the village.

Not highly sustainable

“The land is previously developed and whilst not highly sustainable, the journey into East Hoathly can be done on foot and journeys into Uckfield and Hailsham for main services is a short one.”

The report said that submissions in the application were that the pub was unviable as a going concern and there was no evidence to counter this either held by the council or advanced by others.

It concluded: “The loss of the pub is regretted but weighing up all issues, any adverse effects of the proposal are outweighed by the positive aspects of securing a boost to housing land supply on a brownfield site.”

72 objections

There were 72 objections to the planning application – including one from Wealden MP Nus Ghani. East Hoathly Parish Council supported it but said members were saddened by the loss of the public house as it was considered to be an asset to the community.

Our original story on Monday, October 2: Villagers gathered outside The Foresters Arms in East Hoathly last night to protest about plans to convert the pub to houses.

Foresters-arms-protest

Protesters trying to save The Foresters Arms at East Hoathly from conversion to houses. Picture: Jim Holden.

Harveys Brewery, which has had the Foresters Arms in its portfolio for more than a century, has applied for planning permission to return the pub to the pair of semi-detached cottages it once was, and keep an adjoining self-contained cottage as the third home.

The brewery says there have been a succession of different tenants over the past few years, each withdrawing from their tenancy before the end of the standard five-year term so indicating its lack of viability.

But villagers say the Foresters has always been the best pub in the village for babies, children and those in wheelchairs and they gathered outside it last night to step up their protest about the plans.

Nearly 100 people are supporting the Keep the Foresters Open campaign and they are being urged to share details with members of clubs and societies in the village to get them to sign up too.

A public meeting has been called on Thursday, October 5, in the village hall at 7.30pm to discuss what more can be done to “prevent the pub and 100 years of history being torn up for one more house”. They are inviting Harveys.

One of the campaigners Michael Evans says there are seven key issues:

  • The pub is an asset of community value used by all sorts of different societies and clubs
  • It is the only pub with disabled facilities, wheelchair access and baby changing facilities
  • It is well supported by the village and can be financially viable
  • Harvey’s have not even offered the pub for sale in the open market to continue as a pub
  • It is different to the Kings Head
  • It created jobs in the village
  • 100 years of history for one more house

He says objections should be emailed to planning@wealden.gov.uk, and include the planning application number WD/2017/1209/F, your name and address and the words “I object to this planning application”.

A Facebook page, Keep The Foresters Open, has been set up to co-ordinate activities.

Harveys says in documents included with the planning application that The Foresters Arms was featured in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2015 and scored consistently “excellent” and “good” on Trip Advisor with the main categories of Service, Value, Food and Atmosphere all scoring a 4.5 out of 5.

Comments left by visitors and diners were also mainly very positive with high praise given to the quality of the foo and the friendliness of the staff.

The planning statement continues: “The various tenants that have been involved with the pub have each strived to make it a thriving, popular pub as a focal point in the village and a natural meeting place for residents to use.

“However, despite the goodwill of those who have visited the pub over the past few years, and the best efforts of the various tenants with assistance and support from Harveys, the pub has always struggled to affirm its place in the village and wider area.

“As such it has not been able to offer a profitable, or even sustainable, living to its tenants.”

The brewery suggests that in a village the size of East Hoathly can only sustain one pub and another in the village, the Kings Head, has a more centralised position and is larger than The Foresters Arms.

Harveys also says there is competition from another 22 other pubs/bars/restaurants within a four to five mile radius of The Foresters Arms.

See also:

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