Decade-long row between tycoon and North York Moors villagers over pub returns to spotlight

A decade-long row between an internet tycoon and residents of a North York Moors village over a registered asset of community value is to return to the spotlight as national park planners have advised a refusal of his latest plan for the premises would be difficult to justify.

By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 10th January 2022, 11:55 am
Updated Monday, 10th January 2022, 11:56 am

On Thursday January 13, the national park authority’s planning committee will consider Freeserve founder Peter Wilkinson’s revised proposals to convert the 239-year-old Plough Inn, at Fadmoor, near Helmsley, into two local occupancy homes to rent and four holiday homes.

The application was considered last July, but after being deferred to seek more information over a community request for compulsory purchase by Ryedale District Council and a viability assessment, Mr Wilkinson has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination.

Consequently, the park authority can no longer determine the application, but it is required to advise the Planning Inspectorate as to whether it would have approved or refused the application.

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The Plough at Fadmoor.

Mr Wilkinson, who owns the 19,000-acre Pennyholme Estate to the north of the village, closed the pub, which featured in the Michelin Guide, in 2011 citing a lack of trade and vilagers’ access to a pub in nearby Gillamoor.

In support of the application, the applicant’s agents have stated: “We appreciate that the previous planning application for the change of use to ground floor offices was refused due to the property being registered as a community asset and lack of supporting information for the financially non-viability of the business.

“However, as the public house ceased trading in Jan 2011, and is now boarded up with no access for the public and therefore it makes no contribution to the community, it is clearly not a community asset.”

However, local residents have insisted the pub could be a viable business and The Fadmoor Community Pub Ltd, a community benefit society regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, has continued to campaign to buy the pub and make it a multi-purpose community enterprise.

Fadmoor village sign

Residents have again objected to Mr Wilkinson’s plans, saying existing holiday accommodation businesses in the area would benefit greatly from having a pub in Fadmoor, which remained much-needed in Fadmoor for use by residents.

In a letter of objection one resident wrote: “There appears to have been a concerted effort to ensure the decline of the building to the point that it can be claimed to be an eyesore and that redevelopment is the only solution.”

A planning officers’ report over the latest plans, states the community do appear to have the will and finances to purchase the closed pub if they were able to, and to run it successfully.

It adds: “The national park authority does not have the powers to force the owner to sell; it must restrict its consideration to its own planning policy position and whether or not a change of use would be supported.

“It would not benefit good planning delivery to continue to refuse alternative uses of these buildings that would have some community and economic benefit while also resolving a worsening physical /environmental problem in an attractive moors village.

“To do so, in the face of policies that would support the new uses proposed would be considered to be unreasonable and officers strongly advise that a refusal of this application would be difficult to justify.”