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Planners refuse pub conversion near Pateley Bridge for fourth time

Tuesday, 9 July 2024 15:59

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

The Birch Tree, Wilsill.

North Yorkshire Council has refused a fourth bid to turn The Birch Tree Inn in Wilsill into a holiday cottage.

The 110-year-old pub is a prominent landmark on the main road from Pateley Bridge to Harrogate but much of the building was converted into three holiday cottages in 2019 with the pub continuing to trade in a smaller area.

But after the pub reduced in size, planning documents say it has struggled to turn a profit despite attempts by the owner and two tenants.

It last served customers before the first Covid lockdown in March 2020 but did not reopen.

During each of the previous refusals, the council argued the pub’s owner had not marketed it as a pub sufficiently to prove that it was no longer viable.

This is a requirement of planning law when seeking to convert community facilities such as pubs.

A cover letter was attached to the latest application which argued a “substantial period of marketing” had occured and talks had also taken place with the local community about a potential sale.

However, the application received an objection from Pateley Bridge Town Council which claimed work to refurbish the pub had already begun with fittings already stripped out. It called on the council’s planning enforcement team to investigate.

The town council, which has an advisory role in local planning applications, confirmed there was interest in Pateley Bridge to buy the pub as a community asset.

In North Yorkshire Council’s refusal notice which was published on July 4, it says a site visit took place last month which revealed the pub had already been converted into holiday accommodation despite the application claiming works had not begun.

It said a domestic kitchen and bedroom were “clearly visible” where the pub toilets and seating area were supposed to be.

An agent was contacted by the council about this but did not send a response.

The council judged the conversion would have made it more difficult to market as a pub.

An officer wrote:

“It is unclear when the pub was converted to holiday accommodation but it is considered that this would have a material effect on the attractiveness and saleability of the pub.

"Marketing the pub for 12 consecutive months is not a convincing exercise when the site is no longer a pub, but already holiday accommodation.”

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