Save the Winterbourne Arms – October 2020 update

The following information was received from the Save the Winterbourne Arms campaign group on 19 February 2019 and we’re happy to re-publish it here in its entirety.

Any updates can be found at the foot of the post, the most recent first.

The Winterbourne Arms is an idyllic country pub formerly known as The New Inn but the origins of the building, originally as a bakery, date back over 300 years. 

In addition to being a key meeting place for the villagers of Winterbourne, the pub is ideally positioned for country walkers, local businesses, the Watermill Theatre and travellers (being just three miles from Newbury and M4 junction 13). It has had a long history of being a popular and successful gastro pub as evidenced by the Trip Advisor reviews.

In 2015, new owners purchased the Winterbourne Arms. Unfortunately, after a short period one of the partners died, leaving the remaining partner to run the business on their own. A short time afterwards the remaining owner became unwell and, even though it was running profitably, was not able to manage the pub any longer and closed it – a real tragedy for everyone involved. 

The Winterbourne was put up for sale and was purchased in August 2018 by Mr Roffe, the owner of The Furze Bush Inn and The Nags Head in Newbury. The pub was sold to Mr Roffe on the understanding he was going to reopen it, the owners having previously turned away several property developers. 

However, instead of reopening the pub, Mr Roffe attended the Winterbourne Parish meeting in November and advised the community he intended to convert the pub into a house, applying for planning permission early in 2019. If he is successful, Winterbourne will lose its last public meeting place. 

The village is determined to ensure the Winterbourne Arms remains a pub to serve the local, well-bonded community. There are residents in the village who are distraught at the closing of this well-loved asset and we have applied to turn the pub into an Asset of Community Value: the decision is due week commencing 25 Feb. It is the reason many residents moved to Winterbourne in the first place. There are no other community buildings in the village and residents have had to take to holding village meetings either in the church – which is a long walk up a steep hill for our more elderly residents – or even in private houses. 

Testament to the strength of feeling and level of support and passion that the community feels is the creation in late 2018 of the Save the Winterbourne Arms community campaign. This is run by eight residents and widely supported both within the village itself and in the neighbouring villages of Boxford, Bagnor and North Heath. 

The community campaign team has done a great deal in the past several months, including developing of a strategy not only to fight any future development plans but to also explore the options should planning permission be refused.

You can find out more about the campaign by visiting its website here.

October 2020 update

The Winterbourne Arms in Winterbourne has been sunk in a fog of uncertainty after it was bought it 2018, ostensibly with the purpose of its remaining as a pub. Either this was not specified as a condition of the sale or it was but was circumvented, because what followed was an attempt to convert the pub to housing in 2019 (see below). This was refused by West Berkshire Council. A further application was made this year which included a provision for a ‘micro pub’: this, the campaigners believed as a result of taking advice, was unsustainable and nearly 100 objections were lodged meaning the matter would have been called into be discussed at committee.

In October 2020, before this could happen, the application was withdrawn. It then transpired that the pub was on the market but at a price so high and with development conditions so onerous as surely to put off any bidder. The objectors have had the pub declared an asset of community value but this has been objected to on three occasions: the most recent appeal is yet to be decided.

The campaign group told Penny Post on 29 October 2020 that it is ‘considering its response and will continue to reach out to specialists in this area for guidance and support.’ If you are such a specialist or if you have used or might ever use the Winterbourne Arms as a feeding or watering hole, you can contact savewinterbournearms@gmail.com.

November 2019 update

The Save the Winterbourne Arms campaign team has vowed to continue to fight to save their village pub following an appeal submission by the owner in September 2019 to attempt to overturn the planning refusal issued by West Berkshire council.

“The appeal statement submitted by the owner contains very little in the way of new arguments that would support overturning the refusal, so without any substantive new evidence we are hopeful the refusal will be upheld when it goes to appeal in December 2019,” says Jill Hoblin from the campaign team.

“The assumption that the pub is unviable is something the campaign team refutes and indeed our own independent consultant found the viability assessment that was submitted to support the application was seriously flawed and did not stand up to particular scrutiny. In addition we had two chartered accountants, one with extensive experience in the pub trade, review the assessment and their conclusions matched that of our consultant.”

The campaign team is also in the process of applying for a Public Works Loan in order to purchase the Winterbourne Arms , should it be put up for sale. As part of this work the team has drawn up a business plan with assistance by experts in the pub trade, clearly showing that with the right business model, the pub is viable.

“There continues to be a very high strength of feeling in the village that this lovely village pub does have a viable future and should be saved, which is why we will continue to fight to save it and secure its future” says Jill Hoblin.

The application can be viewed on West Berkshire Council’s website (enter reference 19/00346/FULD). Emails concerning the application should be sent to planapps@westberks.gov.uk.

May 2019 update

Planning permission to turn the pub into housing was refused on 27 April 2019 and the campaign group would like to thank the 230 people who wrote to West Berkshire Council objecting to the change of use. The group has contacted the owner, Nick Roffe, in order to establish what the next steps might be and awaits his response. However, uncertainty remains over the pub’s hoped-for status as an asset of community value (which, if granted, offers additional protection against changes of use). The application has been rejected by West Berkshire Council, but the campaigners believe that the two reasons for refusal are based on incorrect information or procedure and are taking legal advice.

March 2019 update

Comments on the planning application have now closed. Penny Post understands that there have been over 200 objections logged against the development. The application for the pub being declared an Asset of Community Value should be decided by about 20 March and a decision on the planning application is expected to be made by 8 April 2019.

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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale