Regulars campaigning to save a community pub are celebrating after developers were refused planning permission to convert the site in to a 64-bed care home for second time.
However, The Centurion in Oldfield Drive, Vicars Cross, was closed by the owners in January so there is no guarantee it will ever reopen. And an appeal hearing next week could overturn a previous decision to reject the care home plan.
Bob Hindhaugh, vice chairman of Centurion Community Action Group, is pleased 'a hurdle' has been cleared but says the 'bigger hurdle' comes next week when an appeal hearing at St Mary's Centre in Chester will examine whether the original scheme should have been rejected.
He said: "Ourselves, the community, and the local authority have to persuade the government inspector it's the right decision to turn it down because the pub and community have far greater value than a care home. This second refusal should help at the appeal."
Mr Hindhaugh previously suggested the community could run the traditional pub themselves. He said many of its clientele were over 65s and the business served a social function. The nearest alternatives at The Piper and The Bridge Inn were too far away for some customers to walk.
The campaign group was ‘delighted’ when The Centurion was initially saved last year after the first set of plans was refused by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).
Developers LNT Group then resubmitted plans to build the care home after demolishing the pub, with claims The Centurion was ‘economically unviable’.
But CWaC planners have just rejected the scheme for a second time arguing the proposed development ‘would result in the loss of a public house which would be to the detriment of the cultural, social and economic health of the community to which it serves’.
A report by officer Bethany Brown continues: “It has not been sufficiently demonstrated that a public house operating from the site is financially unviable, and the pub’s loss would require its customers to travel a significant distance to use another comparable facility.”
Ms Brown argued the plan ‘does not respect local character by reason of its lack of integration into the urban grain, its density, massing and scale’. And by reason of its ‘overbearing impact and its overlooking of neighbouring properties would be detrimental to the residential amenity’.
Centurion Community Action Group understands pub group Admiral Taverns agreed to sell the building to the developers subject to planning consent.
The campaign has been backed by Chester’s Labour MP Chris Matheson, who said previously: “There is a great grass roots campaign running to save the pub and I fully support them.”
A comment is awaited from Admiral Taverns.