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 and its ability to come together as a community.
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.
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.
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.