Hearing begins over plans to convert Grade II listed Biggleswade pub into a house

Red Lion development was rejected on grounds of ‘loss of a community facility’
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An appeal hearing was due to begin today over a local authority’s refusal of full plans to turn a Grade II listed Biggleswade pub into a residential property. (15/11)

Clophill-based Elliott Builders Limited wants to convert The Red Lion in London Road into a house, with the demolition of single-storey extensions at the back, and to turn an outbuilding into a garage and storage space.

A two-day hearing at Central Bedfordshire Council’s Priory House headquarters in Chicksands is scheduled by the government planning inspectorate, which will decide whether the development is approved or refused.

The Red Lion pub in Biggleswade closed in 2019The Red Lion pub in Biggleswade closed in 2019
The Red Lion pub in Biggleswade closed in 2019

In a planning statement for the appellant, GC Planning Partnership Ltd said: “There are ten other drinking establishments in the form of public houses, bars and hotels, which are within a five-minute walk of the appeal site in Biggleswade town centre.

“Since the closure of the public house in 2019, the premises has been marketed and no purchaser has emerged to operate it as a pub or to apply for planning permission for an alternative social or community infrastructure use until the site was bought by the applicant at the end of 2021.

“This would strongly indicate the pub isn’t financially viable and wasn’t when it was most recently in occupation, as this ultimately led to its closure.

“This is further exacerbated by the fact there are so many other pubs and drinking establishments close to the appeal site, creating a great deal of competition for trade locally.

“It’s also noted that the appeal building is not listed by the local planning authority as an asset of community value.”

CBC’s development management committee rejected the application in July 2022. Its planning report explained: “The proposed development would result in the loss of a community facility and associated employment, and it’s not considered that the loss has been robustly justified.

“There’s an absence of evidence to show that the facility no longer serves the community, that it’s surplus to requirement and there’s a lack of need for any other community facility.

“It’s not been proved that the hostelry is no longer viable, and that all reasonable efforts have been made to sell or let the premises. The loss of the community facility weighs significantly against the proposals.

“The loss of a public house would fail to support the vitality of Biggleswade in this town centre location and would reduce the range of facilities offered, including outside normal shopping hours.

“Insufficient information has been provided to show that future occupiers of this development wouldn’t be unacceptably impacted by noise generated by traffic and Stratton House Hotel, whereby any mitigation measures may impact upon the listed building.

“Equally not enough information has been presented to indicate that this scheme wouldn’t result in harm to highway safety through the potential obstruction of London Road, which could impede the free flow of traffic on the local network.”

Biggleswade Town Council opposes the project. Deputy mayor Mark Knight told a council meeting the building is within the town conservation area, adding: “We objected in April 2022. It appears the current owner is completely disregarding planning law.”