‘Practical solution’ is needed for pub’s future

JPCT 210513 The Black Horse, Amberley. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 210513 The Black Horse, Amberley. Photo by Derek Martin

The owner of a disused Amberley pub has told the County Times he is ‘disappointed’ and its future has been left ‘uncertain’ after an appeal to redevelop the premises was refused.

Villagers campaigning to protect the Black Horse from being converted into two dwellings welcomed the appeal decision. Pub owner Peter Marston of Hirsh Marston Limited said the refusal ‘demonstrated what a determined group can achieve with enough time and energy’.

In dismissing the appeal, planning inspector Paul Jackson said all the issues raised in favour of the plan did not outweigh the harm the proposal ‘would bring about to the community facilities in Amberley and to heritage significance’.

However, Mr Marston insisted that the pub would not survive on the support of the local community alone and he is therefore still looking for a ‘practical solution’.

He said: “We have to find a way to reduce the running costs. It will remain empty for some time unless a practical solution is found. It’s all uncertain.”

Mr Marston told the County Times he had attempted to sell the 17th century pub back to the community. He said he offered it to Amberley Parish Council, throwing in all the equipment for free, but claimed it showed no interest.

He said: “The parish council did nothing. We offered the site at cost to them in January, but by April they had not even got so far as a viewing.”

Recently the pub was listed under the Assets of Community Value Scheme, which is a new initiative that gives communities the opportunity to take over local assets.

“This can prevent our company from selling the property for six months while other non-profit organisations in the area can prepare a purchase offer, but for this to be effective they must register their intention of doing so within six weeks, which expired last week,” Mr Marston said. “The parish nor any others did so.”

Amberley Parish Council has denied these claims, stating that Mr Marston was ‘incorrect’.

Now on a quest to find a suitable solution, Mr Marston expressed a number of options that may be in the cards.

Option one is to let out the property. “Hopefully someone will come along with the resources and determination to take it on,” he added.

Option two Mr Marston said is to open the property as an art gallery, village shop or professional offices.

Option three would be to negotiate a compromise. “I don’t know what that compromise could be,” Mr Marston admitted. “Maybe open the pub in part of it - that could be a possibility.”

In March’s public planning inquiry, the Black Horse Action Group claimed the second nearest pub is too far and a treacherous walk.