Councillors ready to resign over decision

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

Several parish councillors in Hook Norton have threatened to resign and issue a vote of no confidence in their district councillor after their historic pub was allowed to be turned into a home.

The decision to allow the resubmitted proposal at the Bell Inn on High Street was made by planning officer Emily Shaw at Cherwell District Council, despite its elected councillors rejecting the initial plan in July.

News of its approval has upset many of the village’s parish councillors, with many set to leave their positions. They will also issue a vote of no confidence in councillor Ray Jelf, Cherwell’s representative for Hook Norton, at the first parish council meeting of 2015 on January 8.

Emma Kane, chairman of Hook Norton Parish Council, has labelled the decision by Cherwell District Council as ‘disappointing’.

She said: “They were firmly aware there were two or three potential buyers to buy the building and use it as a pub for the benefit of the community.

“The owners have just put in another application and it has gone through.

“We have opposed it and they have completely ignored us. It is not the first time this has happened, it is disappointing and I am not very happy about it.”

The village had successfully campaigned against a planning application to transform the pub into a dwelling in 2011.

The 17th Century Grade II-listed building was then purchased by new owners in 2012, who said they had no immediate plans to carry out work on the ageing pub.

But they immediately closed the building and removed the bar before transforming it temporarily into a photocopying shop, which did not require planning permission.

Charles Henderson has lived in the village for 24 years and also sits on the parish council. He said the decision has ‘dumbfounded’ fellow councillors, adding: “The parish council feel ill served by Cherwell District Council and talk of mass resignation has begun to be fermented at the apparent disregard by the council of the expressed views of the parish council and the lack of consultation by Cherwell District Council with the parish council.

“It is as if we serve no purpose in the supposed democratic process and our views count as nought.”

Peter Millar, parish councillor for nearly 17 years, is among those set to resign from his role following the latest decision. He said: “I am shocked that in spite of every recommendation the parish council gave to Cherwell District Council, it has overstepped the mark in overriding public protest and a democratic decision was taken by a member of staff who was employed as recently as July.”

A Cherwell District Council spokesperson said: “A delegated planning decision was taken on December 16 to allow the change of use from a public house to a single dwelling.

“Cherwell District Council took full consideration of the views of Hook Norton Parish Council as well as other consultees.

“The most recent application for planning permission sought consent for a change from a commercial office use, such as a photocopy shop, to a house.

“The council considered whether it could resist the loss of this use but concluded that the loss of this service would not adversely affect the ability of the community to meet its local needs and therefore it could not be resisted.”

Councillor Jelf refused to comment.