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Upwell pub conversion decision deferred amid legal questions on community asset application



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A decision on whether to grant retrospective planning permission for the conversion of a West Norfolk village pub into a holiday let has been deferred.

The move came after senior West Norfolk Council officials suggested further legal clarification was needed in relation to the plan for the Five Bells site in Upwell.

And a leading objector warned councillors "will never be forgiven" if the application is allowed to proceed.

A decision on whether The Five Bells at Upwell can become a holiday let, available on sites such as Sykes Cottages, has been deferred. Picture Sykes Cottages. (44486334)
A decision on whether The Five Bells at Upwell can become a holiday let, available on sites such as Sykes Cottages, has been deferred. Picture Sykes Cottages. (44486334)

The proposal allows for use of the pub, which dates back to the 18th century, as a holiday let accommodating up to 20 guests across nine bedrooms.

The building was used in that way during the coronavirus crisis and officials had advised the scheme met planning policy guidelines.

They highlighted the presence of other pubs in the village, unlike in other areas where proposals to convert a community's last surviving pub have proved controversial.

But yesterday's meeting at Lynn Town Hall was also told that a campaign group, the Five Bells Preservation Society, had submitted an application to register the pub as an asset of community value (ACV).

Heather Utteridge, speaking on behalf of that group and other objectors, claimed the report recommending approval had been written by people with "no clue" about the village.

She added: "You will never be forgiven for this by the majority of the locality and it is incredibly sad to destroy an asset which has faithfully served for 300 years."

But Tim Slater, speaking on behalf of the applicants, said the venue had continued to make a "significant" operating loss" after they had purchased it.

He said they both lived in the area and had bought the site because they were aware of its importance.

He also claimed they had experienced anti-social behaviour there, including drug use and violence.

Legal officer Noel Doran said a planning decision would not affect consideration of the ACV application.

But assistant planning director Stuart Ashworth advised members to defer the matter after he was alerted to potentially conflicting information.

He apologised to members as he told them: "I think it's better, given the controversy around it."

Members voted 13 to nil, with two abstentions to support deferral, following a formal proposal by committee member Terry Parish.



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