‘It is testament to the Hitchin community’s fighting spirit’ – Owner of village pub calls halt to housing conversion plans

The Windmill pub in Charlton was being converted into homes but a retrospective planning application

The Windmill pub in Charlton was being converted into homes but a retrospective planning application has been withdrawn this week. - Credit: Archant

An avalanche of support for a campaign to save a village pub just outside Hitchin from being converted into houses has been hailed as a key factor in a surprise move by the new owner to call a halt to the project.

The Windmill in Charlton closed its doors in June after brewery group Charles Wells sold the building to a private buyer.

The new owner has already started work on converting the riverside building into homes, with a retrospective planning application lodged with North Herts District Council to approve the change.

But that application was withdrawn this week after more than 2,000 objections were lodged.

The owner is now understood to be looking for a tenant to run the building as a pub.

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Villager Phil Jarvis of the Save The Windmill group paid tribute to the tremendous solidarity shown by the Hitchin community.

He said: “We have been overwhelmed by the fantastic support from Hitchin and beyond, including an impressive 864 signatures gathered by Licensees Supporting Licensees via their online petition.

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“It is testament to our community and its fighting spirit in ensuring that vital local amenities are not lost to development.

“Today we are celebrating the fact that pub has been deemed a viable business.

“The independent viability report commissioned by our group proved categorically that it is viable and always was.

“However, it must be noted we are concerned prospective tenants might be put off by the reinstatement costs – estimated by the owner to be more than £200,000 – to rectify the demolition and building works already started without the necessary approvals.

“The group awaits progress on this to see if a tenant can be found, whether the owner reinstates and runs the pub himself – or sells.

“But it is amazing news – and all of us who care about the pub send their heartfelt thanks to everyone for their unequivocal support.”

A North Herts District Council spokeswoman said: “The applicants, recognising the strong support within the local community, have withdrawn the planning application for change of use and will now market the premises through a professional marketing agency with a view to seeking tenants.”

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