Villagers are pressing council planners to help speed up the reopening of Gisburn’s last pub, the White Bull.
They have got Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans to support their campaign to allow Star Pubs and Bars’ proposed revamp of the Grade Two listed building on the village’s main street.
The pub has been closed since last November, and plans for internal alterations have been rejected for a second time by planners at Ribble Valley Borough Council.
“This is the last remaining pub in Gisburn and is a focal point for the village where people can get together socially.” said David Waters, one of the village campaigners.
“I understand the need to protect our heritage but it seems from reading the council officer’s report that the issues are relatively minor and could easily be resolved if the council officers and brewery representatives discussed the plans in order to reach a compromise.”
Mr Waters added that the latest refusal was made by planning officers under delegated powers, not by elected members on the planning committee.
“I do not believe that they have given appropriate weight to the damage the closure of the pub is causing to the economy of Gisburn and to community cohesion,” he added.
“The pub provides vitality and attractiveness to the village. The pub will also give a significant boost to the local economy by providing jobs and by attracting people from outside the area. Its closure not only affects local people but visitors as well.”
Star Pubs and Bars, based in Edinburgh, is a subsidiary of the giant brewery company Heineken and has 1,300 pubs in the UK ranging from country inns to town locals and city centre bars.
A spokesperson for Star Pubs and Bars said: “We were very disappointed to have our second planning application turned down, especially when we had endeavoured to address the concerns of the planning department and have justified the works in line with government guidance.
“We do not intend to radically change the look of the pub and so were surprised when further objections were given as the reason for refusing planning permission. We are acutely aware of the special status of this Grade II listed building and have proposed a respectful and sensitive scheme of minor works.
“We are still very keen to invest in The White Bull to create a great village pub where people can eat, drink and socialise at the heart of the community.
“This latest decision will once again delay the re-opening of the pub.
“Regrettably we feel the only recourse left to us is to go to appeal, which can take up to four months, and hope that in the meantime we can come to a reasonable agreement with the council.”
A spokesman for Ribble Valley council said: “We recognise only too well the value of the White Bull to Gisburn and want to see it open for business as much as anyone else.
“We are doing all we can to help the applicant refurbish the pub in a manner that is sympathetic with its listed status and would like to assure Gisburn residents that we will treat this matter as a priority.”
In Parliament, Nigel Evans pointed out to Mr Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government, that in 1992 there were four pubs in Gisburn and the White Bull was now the only one left.
“The Star brewery wants to reopen the pub and more than 20 residents of Gisburn are very keen to see it reopen, but it is a listed building and there seems to be stalling of some sort of by the local authority,” he said.
“Will the Minister encourage local authorities and brewers to work together to look for compromises in order to ensure that local communities have the very heart of the community – their local pub – reopened?”
Mr Lewis agreed: “A pub like that can be the absolute heart of the community, providing a range of services.
“I encourage his local authority to look at authorities such as Norfolk, which has just announced a specific local scheme for Norfolk to help local pubs to stay open as a key part of these communities.”