Could Great Bedwyn's former Cross Keys pub become a café and bistro?
The building in the centre of Great Bedwyn that was for many years its Cross Keys pub - at 16 High Street - is still up for sale. Marketed from May 2016 for use that could have included it being a pub, it is now being sold as a '4 bedroom town house' - for offers 'in excess of £495,000'.
The Cross Keys ceased to be a pub in November 2016.
Last week a "Notification for Prior Approval for Change of Use...to Restaurants and Cafés" was lodged with Wiltshire Council by Number 16's owner, Ian McIvor, who gave his address on the document as the building itself.
The notification explained that Ian McIvor had received an enquiry from a potential buyer "who is interested in opening a daytime tearoom/evening bistro at the premises" and McIvor wants to "progress matters with the prospective purchaser".
The notification states: "I understand that only a limited menu is envisaged, so odours should not be an issue. However, if extraction is required in future, provision from the previous A4 use (venting to the courtyard`) could be reutilised...Whilst opening hours have yet to be determined, trading sometime between 8am and 10pm is likely."
He points out that the property has no allocated parking spaces: "...however, a locally focused business is envisaged."
This notification states: "The property's current use, since January 2017, is A2 (art consultants). Prior to November 2016 it was A4".
A building registered for A4 usage is a 'drinking establishment' and includes public houses and wine bars with or without expanded food provision'. A3 usage is for restaurants and cafés - food and drink for consumption on the premises.
Marlborough.news has found no evidence yet of a planning application submitted to Wiltshire Council to change the building from A4 to A2 usage. Change of use from a pub (A4) to professional services (A2) is 'permitted for development'. But the change should still be requested from the Council - if only to check that the building has not been nominated as a 'community asset'.
The current sale notice for the former pub states: "The business space has consent for A1 (retail) and A2 (professional & financial users); this area also has potential to be incorporated into the residential space."
That is the first mention in the documentation marlborough.news has seen of A1 usage. It is not mentioned in the notification. It adds: "Due to restrictions on title, the property cannot be used for class A4 (drinking establishments)."
The pub was bought from Punch Partnerships in April 2014 by Portella Limited - a company run by Mr McIvor and his wife Julia. The 'stated price' was £424,998. Portella also owned The Barge at Honeystreet.
Rumours are meat and drink to those who drink in pub bars - and rumours have certainly surrounded the building since it closed as a pub and opened in January 2017 as a gallery.
There had been an attempt to buy the building as a community pub by the Bedwyn Pub Company, a community initiative that was incorporated as a limited company in August 2017. But in July 2017 - six months after the pub closed - restrictive covenants had been added to the property.
And in November 2017 Mr McIvor wrote to Great Bedwyn's Parish News: "I am concerned to hear that certain individuals in the village have been attempting to persuade others to invest funds in a speculative 'pub company' venture, on the basis that they will be purchasing the freehold of 16 High Street (former Cross keys)."
"As the owner of the property I wish to make it clear, this is an entirely false and misleading prospectus. Although 16 High Street has recently been marketed as a 'mixed use' property, there is no prospect of it ever being reused as a public house. Kind regards, Ian McIvor."
The story is complicated by the fact that in July 2017 Julia and Ian McIvor (living at Merstham near Redhill) had bought the land and outbuilding behind the pub at the 'stated price' of £100,000 from Portella Limited (address: Merstham near Redhill). This area became '39 Farm Lane'. The transaction left No 16 with a small courtyard - the pub had always made the most of its beer garden.
The restrictive covenants that were placed on 16 High Street in July 2017 mean that it could not in future be a pub. These were reinforced last month when neighbours of No 16 joined Portella in further restrictive covenants to prevent it becoming a pub again.
Marlborough.news understands that some villagers, who do not feel comfortable in the village's other pub and restaurant, The Three Tuns, really want their village pub back. A café and bistro will almost certainly not meet their needs - although it could prove popular with others in need of a meeting place.
The pub appears not to have been successfully registered by the Parish Council with Wiltshire Council as an 'Asset of Community Value'. If registration had been successful, then under the Localism Act, when the pub was first put up for sale, villagers would have been given six months to buy it.