Pub owners deny planning breach

Bishop Blaize
Bishop Blaize

The owners of a village pub have appeared in court after allegedly breaching a council enforcement notice banning them from living there.

Geoffrey and Jacqueline Noquet of Bishops End, Burdrop were at Oxford Magistrates’ Court last week after denying allegations they breached the notice issued by Cherwell District Council, banning them from living at the Bishop’s End – formerly the Bishop’s Blaize – which has no residential planning application.

Gary Grant, prosecuting on behalf on Cherwell District Council, told the court the enforcement notice took effect on April 4 2013 and the couple failed to comply with the order between June 21 and September 19.

He said: “The requirement of the notice could not be clearer in that cessation of the use of the land as a residential dwelling. To use the land as a residential dwelling, other than ancillary to primary public house use, is in breach.

“While it is accepted that post pub closure there was a period of non residence, they have refurbished and used the property as a residence in the period immediately leading up to and since the enforcement notice.”

The pub has been at the centre of years of strife between Mr and Mrs Noquet and village residents, who want to buy the building and turn it into a community asset.

It was heard Cherwell District Council officers Emily Shaw and Graham Wyatt visited the property in August last year, and concluded the entire property was being used for residential purposes, with the ground floor to be in residential use.

They found Mr and Mrs Noquet had opened the building for pub use, and found part of the ground floor had two stools and a table placed in it with a till.

No customers were served, no food, draught beer or separate toilet facilities were provided and the obtaining of the licence was for the hours of noon to 2pm four days a week.

Graeme Sampson, defending, told the court there was a failing by the council to disclose any of the information provided during the case, notably the council’s licensing department officers who viewed the building on August 28 last year.

Mr Sampson said: “The duty of disclosure is to disclose all material which might damage the prosecution case. The Noquets as defendants were entitled to full disclosure and that has plainly not happened and the failure is deliberate.

“It is clear that the purpose of opening in August 2013 was to reactivate the public house use.

“The council knew that in advance and had received a positive view of the proposed opening from, at the very least, Mr Wyatt.It is said the public house use did not resume. It clearly did.

“The premises were licensed and offered alcoholic and other drink for retail sale.

“They have been subject to a campaign of the most extraordinary harassment for more than seven years. They have been spied upon and log kept by the Bishop’s End Support Group (BBSG).

“The wording of the enforcement notice does not preclude the Noquets from living at the premises.

“The public house use was in abeyance for five years before the notice was served. It was still a public house albeit shut. It could have reopened at any time, as it did in August last year.”

The decision will be made back at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on September 29.