Vil­lagers see red over pro­pos­als for pub con­ver­sion

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Letters And Opinion - By Gerry War­ren gwar­[email protected]­m­ @Ger­ry_war­ren

A de­vel­oper’s plan for a re­dun­dant pub is fac­ing a back­lash from vil­lagers who want it to re-open.

Fa­ther-son team Ralph and Alis­tair Noel have de­signs for the for­mer Chap­ter Arms at Chartham Hatch, hav­ing bought the build­ing af­ter it failed to sell as a go­ing con­cern.

They want to ex­tend and con­vert the pub into a lux­ury home, build a ter­race of three starter homes on the car park, and cre­ate a mi­cropub and hol­i­day ‘pods’ on the for­mer beer gar­den.

But many vil­lagers are ob­ject­ing, and around 60 at­tended a pub­lic meet­ing at the vil­lage hall re­cently to con­demn the scheme.

They want the pub to re-open, but Mr Noel se­nior in­sists it was closed by the pre­vi­ous owner be­cause it was not vi­able and he had no suc­cess in sell­ing it on as a busi­ness.

But he faced the wrath of vil­lagers at the meet­ing where there were heated ex­changes be­tween him­self and ob­jec­tors.

The par­ish coun­cil is also ob­ject­ing to the de­vel­op­ment on the grounds that clos­ing the pub would re­sult in the loss of an im­por­tant vil­lage amenity and the plans are an over-de­vel­op­ment of the site.

More than a dozen vil­lagers have also left ob­jec­tions on the city coun­cil’s plan­ning web­site, many say­ing the pub could be vi­able – in the right hands.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Mr Noel said claims a re­vived pub could be a “gold mine” were un­re­al­is­tic.

“The fact is that it wasn’t vi­able for the owner, who was un­able to sell it as a go­ing con­cern for two years,” he said.

“I didn’t close the pub down – it was al­ready shut when I bought the prop­erty.”

Mr Noel said he bought the build­ing to con­vert into his own home be­cause he liked the lo­ca­tion.

But he and son Alis­tair also saw the po­ten­tial of the site to cre­ate starter homes, a hol­i­day ven­ture and a mi­cropub.

Alis­tair said: “Many coun­try pubs are strug­gling? You only have to look at how many are up for sale.

“But a mi­cropub is a much more 21st cen­tury so­lu­tion and more likely to suc­ceed in of­fer­ing vil­lagers a place to en­joy a pint.

“We could have ap­plied to bull­doze the lot and build big ex­ec­u­tive homes, but are try­ing to be sym­pa­thetic to the vil­lage and in­no­va­tive in of­fer­ing two-bed starter homes and a hol­i­day ven­ture with the pods to take ad­van­tage of its lo­ca­tion near the North Downs Way.

“We did put our pro­pos­als to the par­ish coun­cil last year to get some feed­back but they wouldn’t com­ment.

“It was very frus­trat­ing and re­ally left us nowhere to go but to sub­mit the for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Pic­ture: Paul Amos FM5070960

De­vel­op­ers Ralph and Alis­tair Noel in front of the for­mer Chap­ter Arms

Artist’s im­pres­sion of the pro­posed mi­cropub

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