After nearly two months of deliberation, Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council has has decided not to prevent the owner from demolishing the historic Harvest Home prior to any planning application being submitted. They made their decision just days before the anticipated date for knocking the historic roadside public house down.

Bulldozers
Despite a petition, a well attended public meeting and the Council’s own planning policies, they have chosen to allow the bulldozers to flatten the officially listed ‘building of local interest’.

Protection
Unless the developer has a last-minute change of mind, an important part of the town’s heritage, and a building of history and character will be lost forever. Whilst this may please those who claim there are “those who would like to see the back of the Pub”, it does show that greater protection may be needed to prevent further loss of important buildings to Whitchurch.

Article 4
The Campaign for Real Ale, whose aims including the retention of pubs, had asked the Council to impose an Article 4 Direction which would have delayed the demolition until a proper planning application was submitted. A court case had determined such a tool could be used by planners to prevent demolitions.
However, at a meeting on Tuesday this week, the decision not to implement one was presented by the ‘Corporate Director’ and was then “noted” by the six members of the Council’s Cabinet.

Local CAMRA Chairman Phil Myatt said:

“While the Government is looking at ways of giving more protection to local amenities such as pubs, post offices and shops, we are disappointed that Basingstoke Council has not followed their lead. They had a chance to save a historic building but have failed to act.”

Whitchurch’s Borough Councillor Keith Watts, speaking at the Council Meeting said:

“The recent court decision only happened because “Save Britain’s Heritage” took the risk of paying costs to bring an action. If we want to save the Borough’s heritage we have to start by challenging the case we have in front of us now. That will send a signal that Basingstoke and Deane will act where it is necessary.

“By taking no action this Council has badly let down the people of Whitchurch, and ultimately the people of the whole Borough by showing that it is a soft touch.”

I would have bought the pub…
At last week’s public meeting, Cydni Green, granddaughter of famous landlord Sid Parker, pleaded for the Council to retain the building, given its importance to the community of Whitchurch. She said she would have bought the pub had she been able to.

Responses awaited
At the same meeting the Cabinet member for Planning, Cllr Rob Golding, had promised local residents that he would respond to a number of questions regarding inconsistencies that had been highlighted in the Council’s information.
Over a week later, this is still awaited…

***UPDATE***

Cllr Golding has today advised that the best possible path to a stay of demolition will be documented evidence that bats have been present on the site in the last few years.

This could take the form of witness statements from residents, patrons, neighbours etc.

These don’t need to be affidavits signed by solicitors at first, Cllr Golding is happy to accept written statements and if they would prove effective if ‘legalised’ then that can be pursued. So if you or anyone you know has seen bats in the vicinity of or particularly on/in the Harvest Home in the last few years, your input could be critical to saving the building.

Anyone can make their submission to http://savetheharvesthome.org.uk/ under ‘Contact’ – please be as detailed as you can regarding the time/date/nature of bat activity witnessed.

If you have photos of bats in the vicinity, please advise in your submission.

REPORT OF THE PUBLIC MEETING