'A crying shame' - Council votes to change village pub to holiday let

Five Bells Inn in Upwell. 

Five Bells Inn in Upwell. - Credit: Google

Councillors have voted in favour of a village pub’s application to become a holiday let - despite the opposition of more than 130 people.

At a Monday meeting of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council’s planning committee, members debated whether or not to grant permission for a retrospective change of use at the Five Bells Inn in Upwell, near Wisbech. 

Some 133 objections were sent to the council, along with 73 supportive comments, and four neutral responses.

Heather Utteridge, speaking on behalf of the Five Bells Inn Preservation Society - which was formed to campaign against the change of use - said there were no other pubs in the local area suitable for families. 

She said the manner in which the proposed change of use had gone forward “is disgusting, it's divisive and it's been upsetting and horrifying”.

Ms Utteridge said she hoped the council would do “something constructive and great, not something destructive, miserable and unwarranted, please.”

Tim Slater, speaking on behalf of the applicants, said the owners had "encountered numerous issues of antisocial behaviour, such as physical violence, when the property was running as a pub.

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“Faced with a poor economic position, coupled with the impact of Covid, the applicants decided reluctantly to close the pub element and retain the letting rooms.”

Councillor Sandra Squire said: “I am concerned that it is very easy to declare that a business is not viable.

Independent Norfolk county councillor Sandra Squire. Pic: Norfolk Independent Group.

Independent councillor Sandra Squire suggested that the pub could have been better run - Credit: Norfolk Independent Group

“If you’re not offering what the local residents require, then no, it's not viable - I would suggest that perhaps the owners aren’t experienced pub runners.

She said the loss of the possibility of a good pub in the village would be a “crying shame”.

Some councillors raised concern about anti-social behaviour worsening, as guests have access to the original bar space.

Planning officer Lorna Gilbert said however that the bar would not be stocked with alcohol, though guests may bring their own barrels of beer, which could be connected to the pumps on request. 

She added that the council’s licensing department had no concerns with that arrangement.

Lesley Bambridge. Picture: Ian Burt

Conservative councillor Lesley Bambridge said the fact that the pub had become unviable evidenced how little-used it was as a pub. - Credit: IAN BURT

Councillor Lesley Bambridge said: “We were told that there were x number of people in the village who could use the pub, but they clearly haven’t, because it’s not been a viable proposition.”

Councillors voted to approve the change by nine to four.

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