Agenda item

22/02444/F & 22/02460/LBC - White Lion Public House, 40 Linkfield Street, Redhill

Change of use of existing from public house to single dwelling and the erection of two semi-detached houses. As amended on 24/08/2023.

Minutes:

The Committee considered an application for the change of use of existing from public house to single dwelling and the erection of two semi-detached houses. As amended on 24/08/2023.

 

Jonathan White, a local resident, spoke in objection to the application stating that he was speaking as a member of the Friends of the White Lion, a community group set up in 2019 when the previous application had been submitted. The application had received 136 online public comments opposing it and 13 in support. The report highlighted the 18 month marketing exercise and that concluded that the requirements had been met to demonstrate “that there is no reasonable chance of the building being bought back into use as a pub or other such community facility”. The report explained that “Whilst a number of enquiries were made for public house use, with a number of internal viewings, ultimately these were not pursued either because the asking price was not met, or the potential difficulties and potential expenditure required to take on a Grade II listed building”. It was felt that the report lacked any discussion of the asking price. Demand was a function of price, and it was clear that the problem was not the pub but it’s price and at the right price the pub would be viable. From the Friends’ perspective, the plans they had to make a community-use purchase were rendered complete non-starters by the amount of money the applicant wanted. The property was bought by the applicant in 2018 for £525,000 and, post covid, without the benefit of any capital improvements or additional planning permissions but with the drawback of an ongoing and worsening process of dilapidation, the price selected for the “marketing exercise” was £575,000, an increase of nearly 10% on the purchase price. Furthermore, considering the responses of prospective buyers as set out in the report, the applicant potentially overpaid when buying the property. There was disagreement by the public speaker with the officer’s report, with the assertion that the applicant had satisfied the requirements of policy INF2 and Annex 3 of the Development Management Plan and that their marketing exercise was an entirely false construct and therefore put that forward as a reason for refusal of the application. It was felt that the applicant was seeking to monetise history for their private financial gain.

 

Alexi Rea, a local resident, spoke in objection to the application stating, that this building was said to be the oldest building in continuous use as a licenced premises in the borough. The public house has an 16th century core, and a detailed overview of the pub’s internal history was given. The public speaker had viewed the property a couple of years ago to be hugely dismayed by the state of the building.  It had clearly been used as an HMO with no regard to the interior. When it was on the market the current owners made it extremely difficult to purchase, with no intent to return it to the state it was bought in. An estimate to bring the pub back into use was at a cost of at least £30,000. It was not purchased by the applicant to be an ongoing venture to serve the community.  It was solely bought to develop and make a profit and concern was raised regarding some of the brewery’s business decisions whilst it was operating as a public house.  An explanation of how the pub had been used over the decades was given and it was questioned why this historical pub could not be made available for all to enjoy.

 

Mark Sennitt, the Agent, spoke in support of the application, stating that the two main issues that were raised by the public speakers related to the listed building and design. In respect of the listed building the best way to preserve a building was to make sure that it is used. As the previous speakers acknowledged the building was starting to fall into a state of disrepair and the application provided the opportunity to refurbish, occupy and bring the building back to life. The proposals represented an improvement on the previous application for 3 flats, not least as it allowed for minimal alterations to the listed building and allowed for the majority, if not all, of its qualities and features to be retained. In terms of viability, the site had been marketed for 18 months, well in excess of the minimum 6-month marketing period required by policy. Whilst there have been a number of viewings of the site, this has not been reflected in firm offers. Those that have been made lacked substance and could not be backed up financially and were not proceedable. The application was supported by a marketing report that demonstrated that the continued use as a pub was not viable. This report had been prepared by a fully qualified local surveyor with many years’ experience of working with this local authority. The format of the report was standardised and would have been reviewed by Council officers to confirm its robustness. 

 

A vote was taken on applications 22/02444/F and 22/02460/LBC and it was RESOLVED that planning permission be GRANTED subject to conditions as per the recommendation and addendum.

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