‘The loss of our only pub will destroy our community’

Carpenter's Arms, Slapton
Carpenter's Arms, Slapton

Dismayed villagers are gearing up for a battle after learning that their village’s historic pub could be converted into a house.

Parish councillor Alan Dugard, of Interguide Group Ltd, owns the Carpenters Arms in Horton Road, Slapton, but insists it is no longer profitable and isn’t being supported by the village.

The grade II listed building was closed in October last year and Aylesbury Vale District Council has since taken the pub off its list of assets of community value.

But after learning of the planned change of use, which was registered with Aylesbury Vale District Council on February 5, locals have been flooding the council with letters of objection in recent days over the prospect of losing their only pub which in the past has been frequented by Frank Bruno, American singer Doña Oxford, Mike Rutherford from Genesis and guitarist Albert Lee.

Villager Amy Kennedy said: “This is for most the only place where people can go to socialise, especially elderly people, disabled people or people with no means of transport.

“It is an historical building with a lot of character and good memories for the locals and their ancestors.”

And she questioned why a parish councillor would want to take away the only facility in Slapton, adding: “It is purely for his own financial gain and not for the good of the villagers. As a Local Parish Councillor he should be ashamed of his actions and if he has no more registered interest then he needs to step down as a councillor as he does not live in the village anyway.

“These actions demonstrate that he does not care about the village, nor the locals.”

Another person, relatively new to the village, wrote: “The place was considered the hub of the village.

“It has sadly declined over the last few years.

“However, I believe a business that has run successfully for hundreds of years should be given another chance to survive as a place for the locals.

“Just because one owner doesn’t make it profitable does not mean that another couldn’t.

“I would say that the change of use should be denied this time around. Another possibility is that the villagers could buy the pub as has happened in other small communities in the area.

“ This would take a bit of time but if it was turned into a home now there is no way that amenity will ever come back.”

Another resident blamed Mr Dugard for the pub struggling.

He wrote: “It is claimed, quite correctly, that the pub is not currently supported by the village but as the current owner is a very divisive character, this is of no surprise.

“If the pub changed hands and a new owner/landlord created an ambience where people felt comfortable whether visiting alone, as a couple or as a family, then it could again become important to the village and therefore financially viable.”

Mr Dugard in his application has stated that the premises has been marketed for a year.

He said: “We feel that the only way to keep this beautiful building in a good state of repair as a listed building is to make it somebody’s home.”

He said previous owners Vale Brewery had closed the pub in 2005 unable to make the business work, but Interguide had purchased the pub hoping to use their experience to make it succeed as a restaurant.

He said that in 2012 the decision had been made to sell the Carpenter’s but there had been no interest, so a management tenancy was created.

Mr Dugard said shortly into this, however, it became clear the pub wasn’t being supported by the community and was in financial difficulty again.

He added: “As a company with multiple bars and restaurants within the UK, and a wealth of knowledge within the industry, we feel that we can say that we, over the 12 years owning this premises and trying every different angle to make it survive and supporting financially to stay open to a value exceeding £170,000, that there is not the support locally and no access for non-locals except by 
cars.”

He said that he also owned the nearby Bury Farm Equestrian Village, a 10-minute walk from The Carpenters Arms, and whose facilities included a restaurant/café and two bars which were open to the local community. He pointed out that there were also other pubs a short drive from the village.

The parish council has confirmed the planning application is due to be considered by its meeting on March 14.

To comment on the application go to https://publicaccess.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=P3OBZZCLHQ200