Appeal dismissed to house Ukrainian refugees in vacant Northamptonshire pub

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An appeal for a rejected application to house a family of Ukrainian refugees in an empty pub has been dismissed by the planning inspectorate

A planning appeal to use a vacant Northamptonshire village pub to temporarily house a family of Ukrainian refugees has been thrown out.

The application would have seen the former Black Horse pub in Cold Ashby re-purposed as temporary accommodation for a family of five for a three-year period.

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The original plans were rejected by West Northamptonshire Council in October 2022, as it would result in the “loss of a community facility” and affect the “economic and social sustainability of the existing community”.

The Black Horse pub, Cold Ashby.The Black Horse pub, Cold Ashby.
The Black Horse pub, Cold Ashby.

The public house ceased trading in March 2020 and was then put on the market. It has been acting as an unlicensed community venue for members of the public since, managed by Northampton-based charity, Friendship Zone.

The charity took the council’s refusal to appeal. The Government’s planning inspectorate upheld the decision on the basis that it would be an “unnecessary loss” of the facility.

It indicated the lack of any other pubs in the small village, with the closest alternative one mile away in Thornby. It also said that losing the pub would sever its important role of meeting the “day to day needs of rural communities”.

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A petition was launched in May 2022 looking to “save The Black Horse” from becoming housing and was signed by 228 people. One person wrote: “Cold Ashby needs the village pub when so many other amenities have been lost over the decades… no school, no shop, losing the pub to a residential property makes no sense.”

The planning inspector, J Moore, wrote: “In terms of responding to a Government objective to provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, it is clear that the proposal would be in the national interest and thus of wider public benefit.

“The proposal would provide an opportunity for the community to show solidarity with the suffering of the Ukrainian nation. However, while I empathise with this, it has not been demonstrated that the proposal is the only way for the community to achieve this objective.

“The loss of the public house would impact upon the village as a whole, which has a population of about 280 persons, and therefore the loss would be more widespread.”

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The Inspectorate also found that there was no “compelling evidence” that the venue wouldn’t be able to reopen as a public house and continue trading once again. The appeal was dismissed on February 1 as it conflicted with planning policies “resisting” the loss of public houses.

Paul Kuznecovs, director of Friendship Zone, said he believed the facility would have “really made a difference” to Ukrainian people wanting to relocate to the UK.

He said: “We are disappointed that our appeal has been refused, however we accept strong feelings of some community members about The Black Horse. The part of the community has unequivocally spoken that while they support people of Ukraine, they do not believe a small rural village is the right place to accommodate refugees.

“We have to carry on knowing that we cannot help people from Ukraine. With this appeal decision, I looked at it, I read it and I totally disagreed with it.

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“My message is that it’s better [living] in a small rural village in the middle of nowhere in England than in a cellar under the bombs and things like that- it’s better in an old pub which is not viable.

“We wish the conclusion of the planning application and appeal did not take almost 2 years to be decided, looks as bureaucracy in some instances last as long as wars,” he added.

Friendship Zone is now looking to submit a new planning application to set up a viable village shop to facilitate the day-to-day needs of residents of Cold Ashby.