COUNTY planners have rejected proposals to change the use of a former village pub.

Charles and Susie Willmott moved in and converted the Newtown Inn several years ago, but failed to get planning permission to do so.

The couple submitted new plans earlier this year to Herefordshire Council for the former pub in Newtown Cross that they have renamed Newtown House.

John Kendrick, the applicant’s agent, said the scheme complied fully with both the letter and spirit of Herefordshire Council, Yarkhill Neighbourhood Plan and national planning policies.

But local residents objected to the scheme over the loss of a pub for the village.

Campaign For Real Ale spokesman Mark Haslam said: “This is the third time that planning permission has been refused.

“This has gone on for far too long, it’s well overdue that the owners recognised they bought a pub business, and if they have no wish to run the Newtown Inn as a pub, then they need to sell it to others who do.

“Instead, they converted it into a house without planning consent, and appear to believe it is for the local community to lose their pub so they can gain a significant planning windfall. That community has shown great patience, resilience and dignity in fighting this scheme; it’s now time they got their pub back.”

Planning officers said there was not enough evidence to demonstrate that the pub was not viable for business.

“The Newtown Inn public house, which is an asset of community value, has not been appropriately marketed, in terms of solely as a public house or for alternative community uses, at a price which reflects the business trading circumstances,” the decision notice reads.

“The resulting loss of this community facility would generate unsustainable modes of travel to seek an alternative facility in meeting community need.”

Planners said the scheme went against the county’s core strategy, the neighbourhood development plan and national planning policies.