Councillor leaves role after Hooky decision

The Bell Inn, Hook Norton
The Bell Inn, Hook Norton

A Hook Norton parish 
councillor has resigned 
after Cherwell District Council backed a plan to convert the village pub into a house.

Peter Millar had been a member of the council for nearly 18 years but stood down week following the approval of the plan for the Bell Inn on the High Street to be changed into a property by its new owners.

He sent a letter to parish council chairman Emma Kane, which was read out at a meeting last Thursday.

In the letter Mr Millar said: “Over the nearly 18 years for which I have had the privilege to serve, I have seen a remarkable evolution in the make-up of the council.

“The relevance of the parish council and its capacity to influence local affairs – surely the prime reason for its existence – has diminished to almost zero.

“During the long debate over the imposition of exceedingly large new housing estates in Hook Norton, above and beyond what local services can accommodate, despite the overwhelming support of villagers, our own vehement opposition and the support of Cherwell District Council and our local MP, our views were dismissed by central government on a technicality.

“More recently – and more disturbingly – our opposition to the use of the Bell public house, backed by a large majority of villagers and by Cherwell District Council planning committee, was overridden again by an unelected bureaucrat of that council, ignoring the will of the people and her democratically-elected employers.

“To my regret I see no further point in remaining a member of a body that functions as little more than a fig leaf for a parody of democracy devoid of any meaning, no matter how representative it may be.”

The decision on the Bell Inn followed a campaign by parish councillors and villagers to buy the building and use it as community hub for the benefit of residents living there.

The 17th Century Grade II-listed building closed before being brought by its current owners, who submitted a proposal to Cherwell District Council in order to convert it into housing. The decision was approved on December 16.

Mr Millar added: “The Bell Inn decision was really disappointing. We even had a letter from Cherwell District Council saying there was nothing we could do about it.”

Mrs Kane said although there was nothing the council could do about the Bell Inn now the application had been approved, it still had a budget of £60,000 to help improve the village’s amenities.

She said: “Peter emailed me his letter of resignation which I accepted and fully understand his position. I would like to thank him for years of service to the village.

“There is a general frustration as a parish council that our views are not being listened to; we have to accept that the Bell Inn decision is done and cannot be changed. The parish council has a large amount of money that we can use so will be making sure we keep amenities in the village up to standard.”

Mrs Kane added there would be a vacancy on the parish council following Mr Millar’s resignation, but a replacement would not be likely until after the General Election in May.

The village has been earmarked for development over the last few years due to Cherwell District Council not displaying a five-year housing supply. Like Bloxham and Adderbury, the parish council has tried to fight several proposals to expand the village.

A recent proposal to build 48 homes off Station Road in Hook Norton was opposed by the council last month.