Slapton’s only pub deemed ‘marginally unviable’ but decision deferred on allowing its conversion to a house

Carpenter's Arms
Carpenter's Arms

Villagers are still clinging on to hope that their only pub will be saved from conversion into a house.

The writing looked to be on the wall when an Aylesbury Vale District Council planning officer’s report into the change of use deemed the Carpenter’s Arms in Slapton to be marginally unviable.

The planning application from Alan Dugard, of Interguide Group, who owns the Horton Road property, was therefore recommended for approval when it went before AVDC development management committee last month.

However, the application was deferred for more information to be fed back to councillors in the near future before they vote on the pub’s future.

A previous bid to convert the pub in 2018 was rejected by AVDC as a result of a tenant occupying the premises which raised doubts over the pub’s unviability.

But when the tenant left in November 2018, Mr Dugard said this was because the pub had remained unprofitable and submitted a fresh bid to convert it, which has been strongly opposed by the parish council.

The latest AVDC report states: “It is now considered, having weighed all material considerations, that the public house is not viable, which has been demonstrated by the most recent occupation of the public house.

“That tenant has confirmed in writing [to AVDC] that the level of business at the pub does not allow for a sustainable business. It is stated by the most recent tenant, that the rent is approximately double that of the previous tenants before him. However importantly, the previous tenant states that even if the rent were reduced by 50%, the ‘takings’ would only match the rent and therefore not allow for a level of profit to be made where the public house could be purchased in the future.

“As such, it has now been concluded, albeit marginally, that the pub is not viable within that use class and that resultantly, the change of use should be supported by officers.”

Cllr Peter Cooper, for Wingrave Ward, told the LBO: “It’s a matter of balance and judgement. At committee Slapton Community put forward a compelling case for unviability resulting from unfair tenancy terms.

“I have been supporting strong feelings from both Slapton community and the parish council, they wish to keep their village pub open. Aylesbury Vale District Council policy is that basic village facilities such as pubs, shops and garages are important to the vitality of rural villages and that change of use should be resisted. In the case of the Carpenters Arms the owner has applied for change of use to a house and this clearly opposes the council’s policy.

“It has been argued that the pub is no longer financially viable and the council’s District Valuer has judged its business performance to be marginal. However, some have claimed that the last tenant was not given a fair chance to run the business successfully and that his efforts were thwarted by restrictive tenancy agreements. It is this aspect of the pub’s performance that AVDC’s officers wish to examine.

“In my opinion, the Carpenters Arms status as a pub should not be lost unless it has no hope of being viable and on behalf of Slapton villagers this is a position I will uphold.”