Planning update Jan 2021
It's been some time since the last update and many of you will be curious as to what's happening with The Ring O’Bells. Plenty has been going on behind the scenes between us, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) and North Devon Council (NDC).
Significantly, The Ring O’Bells continues to enjoy protection through the planning system. Pubs are specifically exempt from a recent change to the planning system to make it easier to convert commercial premises to other commercial uses (known as 'Class E'). In recognising the important role they play in communities, government will also exempt pubs from a proposed future change to the planning rules which will enable commercial premises in class E to be changed to residential use without planning permission.
Specifically, with regard to the Ring O’Bells the Planning Inspectorate has issued its decision to dismiss the owner’s appeal against the Enforcement Notice (EN) issued by North Devon Council in August 2019. The EN, which is now in force, instructs the owner to cease the residential use of the public house and to remove the kitchen and cooking facilities from the apartments. If you wish to read the full decision, you can find it by navigating to the Planning Inspectorate website and searching for case reference 3237425, or by following this link: Reference: APP/X1118/C/19/3237425 (planninginspectorate.gov.uk)
Since then, PINS has also dismissed the appeal against North Devon Council’s failure to grant a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) to legalise the residential use of the property. If you've been following the case closely you will recall that the owner attempted to secure residential use of The Ring O’Bells flats by arguing that 4 years had passed and that the use was now legal as a consequence. The legislation however requires that where the council have taken enforcement action by issuing a notice, the 4-year clock stops ticking. For that reason, his appeal could not succeed. If you wish to read the full decision you can find it by navigating to the Planning Inspectorate website and searching for case reference 3255571, or by following this link: Reference: APP/X1118/X/20/3255571 (planninginspectorate.gov.uk)
Some of you may also know that PINS has recently dismissed similar appeals by Mr Milton against enforcement action and the refusal of a Lawful Development Certificate for residential use in respect of the White Hart in Bratton Fleming, which he also owns. The reasons for the dismissed appeals at the White Hart are in all material respects the same as those for the Ring O’Bells. For the Ring O’Bells EN appeal decision go here: Reference: APP/X1118/C/19/3240256 (planninginspectorate.gov.uk). For the LDC appeal decision go here: Reference: APP/X1118/X/20/3255935 (planninginspectorate.gov.uk).
This is really positive confirmation that both the Ring O’Bells and The White Hart are pubs and not residential properties or development opportunities.
The present planning position in respect of both pubs underscores their value to us in Prixford and surrounding communities and to the residents of Bratton Fleming. The Inspectorate decisions are an important step forward for our respective campaigns. We fully recognise, however, that this may create difficulties for the owner’s tenants. We do hope that the owner is supporting them to make alternative arrangements and ensure they are not left out of pocket.
Disappointingly, we have to report that the owner’s appeal against the listing of The White Hart as an Asset of Community Value has been upheld, so the White Hart will no longer be on North Devon Council’s list of ACVs. This decision was purely based on the judge’s interpretation of the ‘recent past’ test in the Localism Act. It is not a comment on whether the pub is/was an asset. The White Hart was an extremely valuable asset for the local community and can be again.
You will be aware that there is an ACV in place in respect of The Ring O’Bells so it would appear unlikely that this will be re-listed when it expires in a couple of years. However, the legislation behind the ACV listing process is relatively toothless, so whilst this news is disappointing, it is not a serious blow to our campaign, and The Ring O’Bells continues to enjoy protection through the planning system; pubs are specifically exempt from recent proposals to make it easier to convert commercial premises to residential use, recognising the important role they play in communities.
We are looking forward to making further progress in the new year COVID permitting. As soon as there is any further news we will let you know.
Thank you for your patience, and your continuing support.
Last but not least, we are grateful to our planning and heritage consultant, Dale Ingram of Planning For Pubs Ltd, who has supported us, advised us and acted for us (and for the White Hart) for over two years. More details of what Dale has done for us will appear on our website shortly.