Setback in Amberley pub plan

The Black Horse Pub, Amberley. JPCT. Pic Steve Robards SUS-150318-095508001
The Black Horse Pub, Amberley. JPCT. Pic Steve Robards SUS-150318-095508001

The future of the Black Horse pub in Amberley is up in the air after its owner admitted he will not complete plans to reopen the venue.

Citing excessive building costs, drains on his time and energy and the protracted planning application process, Paul Smith has announced he is looking to ‘transfer responsibility’ for the restoration to a new owner.

Mr Smith bought the building in 2013 and pledged to reopen it as a pub and restaurant after the previous owner unsuccessfully planned to convert the closed venue into two holiday homes.

In a letter to village residents, Mr Smith apologised for being unable to realise ambitions to refurbish the venue.

He said he was working on a number of projects, but the Black Horse was ‘creating the greatest concern’ for him.

He wrote: “I apologise if you feel that I have let you down in your, and my, ambitions to return the Black Horse to its former and even greater glory but I hope that you respect my decisions for doing so. It has been a genuine pleasure working with the community.”

Mr Smith, a media mogul behind Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, said planning permission was granted for refurbishment in January.

In the letter, he detailed his reasons for withdrawing from the project. He wrote: “We submitted the plans to Horsham District Council for planning approval - there then commenced a protracted, demoralising and tedious application process. Last year, I was heading towards my 68th birthday, which has since passed, and found myself more under pressure than I had been (previously).

“The costs of development were more than double what had initially been estimated. I had niggling concerns about the lack of car parking and whether we could ever attract sufficient business to support the overheads.”

Villagers who formed the Black Horse Action Group while battling to protect the pub remain optimistic, chairman Jeff Feakins added.

He said: “We have always been very supportive of what Paul was trying to do, and we are very disappointed it hasn’t gone through. The delay with the planning application was a big catalyst which created the circumstances under which Paul has decided he is going to move on and sell.

“There is still the same strength of feeling in the village to support the pub and see it as a thriving pub/restaurant.”

Members of the group have argued that the next closest pub was a treacherous walk along an unlit road, leaving locals without a social hub to meet.