A BATTLE over development at a pub was due to reach a climax last night.

Campaigners say the future of the Purefoy Arms in Preston Candover is in jeopardy because of plans for housing development.

Last night Basingstoke and Deane Council’s planning committee heard arguments from over 100 local residents and users of the Purefoy Arms against the plan which would convert a substantial part of the pub into housing.

Red Oak Taverns, who own the Grade II listed building, have made a development proposal that “harms the long-term viability of The Purefoy Arms” and “is contrary to policy...” says Mark Ruffell, the local councillor, who has urged planners to refuse approval.

Some 120 people lodged their opposition to Red Oak Taverns’ plans because they fear it will affect the viability of the award-winning gastro pub and also ham a listed building.

Planning officers are recommending the plan be approved.

Stevan Hoyle, spokesman for villagers, said “It beggars belief that anyone with an appreciation of historic buildings and townscapes could come to the conclusion that attaching an alien construction, devoid of any architectural merit, and equal in footprint size, if not larger, to the current public house, would not have an adverse impact.”

Alison Davidson said: “I am very disappointed that the planning team considers the considerable changes forming the conversion and extension of the outbuildings are acceptable when so much of the historic fabric and original utilitarian coach house character will be lost forever. This is harmful and cannot be justified in terms of public benefit.”

Despite the plans, the pub has recently received a massive boost to its potential with award-winning chef, Gordon Stott, taking over as landlord. His ambition for “The Purefoy Arms to gain a national reputation for outstanding pub food” and become “one of the U.K.’s top gastro pub destinations” has already brought attention from the national and local press with great reviews in the Daily Telegraph, The Sun and the Basingstoke Gazette.

Mark Grunnell, of Red Oak Taverns, in a letter to the parish council, said: “There is a common theme of suspicion about Red Oak Taverns’ future intentions for The Purefoy Arms. Many have alleged that the pub is being purposefully run down and the current application is a rouse to facilitate the loss of the pub. I want to make clear that this is absolutely not the case.

“The primary function of Red Oak Taverns is the operation of public houses. Very occasionally public houses are sold or redeveloped, but only after a careful assessment of the viability of the business has been undertaken. Red Oak Taverns utilise the proceeds from the disposal or redevelopment of unviable pubs to invest in and safeguard the future of viable community pubs, such as The Purefoy Arms.

“I certainly consider The Purefoy Arms to be a viable pub and we are looking at ways to improve its future trading potential. This can be seen in our recently secured planning permission (ref: 17/00645/ADV and 17/00646/LBC) to upgrade the external signage and appearance of the pub. This investment, in turn, will assist in securing the best possible operator to deliver long-term sustainability for The Purefoy Arms.

“The current application includes two elements: (1) letting rooms to further improve the viability of the pub; and (2) the conversion of the outbuildings into two homes, which makes efficient use of the site and allows for further re-investment in the pub. The outbuildings are very dilapidated and have not been used by the pub for many years. We felt that it made sense to undertake a sensitive conversion into residential accommodation rather than let them decay any further.”