Councillor calls for Bell Inn to re-open

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A HOOK Norton parish councillor has called on the owners of the oldest pub in the village to respect the wishes of the community and re-open it as an inn.

Roger Cooke, who lives in Hook Norton, made the appeal to owners Mr and Mrs Shapland who bought the Grade 11 listed Bell Inn in September last year and immediately closed it.

Mr Cooke said: “Closing a valuable community asset and refusing to communicate plans with the village hardly engenders confidence in what will happen in the future. We accept it was a run down building and needs work doing, but we would like the proper permissions applied for and then to see it re-open as a pub.” He added: “If they don’t want to do it they should sell it to someone else and give them the opportunity.

At the time of the purchase the couple, who live opposite the pub, stated their only intention was to stop the building falling down as it was in such a poor state of repair.

They began renovation work and lodged a planning application with Cherwell District Council in October to make a series of renovations, including replacing windows, re-pointing and re-roofing.However, council conservation officers recommended the application be withdrawn after a site visit during which they found the bar had been removed from the pub with no explanation.

Council officers are now investigating a number of alleged building control breaches.

Tony Ecclestone, communication officer for Cherwell, said: “We are investigating alleged breaches of listed building control and are currently taking legal advice on the most appropriate way forward.”

Zoe Shapland denied building work is continuing and said the couple plan to re-submit the planning application as soon as possible. She said no decision has been made on the building’s future and the couple are addressing its dilapidated state.