The planning appeal hearing that will decide the future for the Plough Inn was held in the Andover Guildhall on Tuesday 10th September. The public seating area was packed to capacity with over 30 Longparish residents, including parish councillors, school governors, village hall committee members and a number of us from Plough Ahead. Alongside were our Ward Councillor David Drew, and North Hampshire's CAMRA's chairperson and the Andover Advertiser. There were messages of support from another 33 Longparish residents who were disappointed they couldn't be there on the day, as well as a message of support from Caroline Nokes MP, which was read out at the hearing.
Headed up and guided by the Planning Inspector, the proceedings focussed on the key issues as she saw them, namely :-
Whether the proposal would be appropriate, having regard to local and national planning policies in respect to community facilities (public house) and
The effect of the proposal on the Plough Inn, a non-designated heritage asset, and the Longparish Conservation Area.
The owner's agents argued that the pub is neither economically feasible, and nor is it needed. Both of these points were strongly contested by the planning officers from Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) , who also pointed out TVBC's planning policies, that were specifically put in place to protect community assets, were not being met. This was backed up by statements from Plough Ahead who highlighted their business plan to operate the Plough Inn as a profitable community owned pub, and able to operate without the product ties, or high rents, that have encumbered previous recent tenants of the Plough Inn. With regards to the effect of the proposal on the Plough Inn's heritage status, the appellant's arguments all appeared to depend on the pub first being deemed to be commercially unviable. TVBC's planning officers stated the harm to the conservation area would be substantial if the building was allowed to be converted to a residential dwelling. The hearing concluded with a visit to the Plough Inn and a look inside.