Residents have been urged to support a village pub after a controversial planning application was approved by city councils.
The owners of the Crown Inn in Catton, near Allendale, applied for partial retrospective approval to offer bed and breakfast provision and a podiatry clinic, along with a number of other changes to windows and the provision of a shed and patio area.
The motion was approved despite opposition from villagers – the motion received 65 objections and only seven supporting comments.
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At Tuesday’s Tynedale Local Area Council meeting, suitor and owner John Gray insisted he was just trying to make the ailing pub profitable.
He said: “The reason the application is in front of you is because the crown has been as closed as it has been open for the last 25 years. It has been in operation since 1999 with five different owners all trying to run a full bar with full food service – all of which later closed due to financial failures.
“It seems obvious to me that the only way to succeed after five consecutive failures is to do something different and that’s why we introduced the bed and breakfast – which I think is an integral part of many pubs. and I didn’t think it would be controversial.”
Mr Gray added that his partner is a podiatrist so they thought they would include this aspect of the business to increase traffic.
Objections to the plans centered on the fact that the proposal would jeopardize the pub’s viability due to a reduction in bar space and would mean the loss of a community facility for the village. But Mr Gray believed the objections were the result of a “one-man campaign”.
He continued: “A meeting was held in the village hall about the future of the Crown without inviting us. Not one person asked me what we would do.
“I think I design it so it doesn’t fail, and the previous owners are the ones who failed. I believe this is the right size for future business.
A number of councilors at the meeting viewed the development as positive and urged the public to support the new owners. Earl Derek Kennedy said: “Residents have some concerns, but if I were a resident I would look at this through a different lens.
“I think that’s a good thing, striving for the business to remain sustainable, which has been a real challenge over the years. The world is changing and people’s habits are changing. What I’m seeing here is someone trying to submit an application to ensure this public body continues.”
Count John Riddle added: “I think if the 65 people who objected had supported the pub it might not have had to make an application. The objections are not planning problems.
“It could still be a community pub if the community supports it instead of fighting it.”
Echoing the sentiments, Count Trevor Cessford said: “People don’t like change and when the pub is about to close they like it even less.
“They talk about it being a community center and a focal point for the village, but when it’s closed it’s neither of those things. It was clearly not viable before because it was closed. It has to be made viable, and you do that through diversification.”
The motion was unanimously approved by the councilors present.