CAMPAIGNERS bidding to save an historic pub have won a vital first round.
Winchester City Council has refused permission for the Fox and Hounds pub, in Denmead, to be demolished to make way for two big houses.
Planning officer Simon Avery said the council felt the building, which is now empty, should be kept as a community pub and the owners, Liberty Leasing, had not made enough effort to sell it on as a going concern.
The 120-year-old pub, in School Lane, closed at the beginning of April because the then leaseholders said they were losing money trying to keep it open.
But Rob Stark, of Upper Crabbick Lane, who was instrumental in trying to save the pub, said it could be a thriving business under the right management.
‘The council is absolutely right,’ said Mr Stark.
‘Two people are interested in the place and one of them wasn’t even allowed access by the landlord to view it.
‘The owner probably thought they could get permission quite easily.
‘And I don’t think the council were happy with the type of houses they were proposing.
‘Of course the council had an overwhelming number of objections to the plans too. Well in excess of 100.’
The council has turned down the plans under section SF7 of the Local Plan.
Mr Avery, the officer in charge, said: ‘We have a policy which really tries to retain buildings, like pubs, that are of benefit to the local community.
‘The only way that can be overcome is if the developer can demonstrate that the pub is not viable and there is not another community use for the premises.
‘We don’t feel the owner has marketed the premises to the extent where they can prove that.’
Mr Stark and residents of the village began their campaign back in February when they discovered the pub was due to close.
He said: ‘There is someone interested in buying the pub outright and one is interested in taking over the lease and prepared to pay rent now to turn it into a restaurant.
‘It is probably one of the best positioned of any of the pubs in the area because it has a beautiful view of the entire valley.
‘We would love to see it open by the summer which I think is possible because one interested party is prepared to invest £150,000.
‘But we are realistic. We know this is probably just the first round and the owners will likely go to appeal.
‘It will mean we will have to start the campaign again but we will do anything to save it.’
Mary Lowndes, another Denmead resident, said: ‘Being realistic the pub may not be full to capacity every day of the week but with enthusiasm, determination, an injection of cash to update it, good marketing, good food and staff who are consistent then good will prevail.’
Liberty Leasing was asked for a comment but did not respond.