Last Modified: April 2014
The Bull, which by the early 1800s had been converted from a farm to an inn, is Greene King owned and currently for sale as a freehold.
It is now more than two years since the windows of the Bull were blocked up and Greene King floated the possibility of building 21 houses in the middle of Troston. Despite the best efforts of the Parish Council, the future of the heart of the village remains as unclear as it was back in January, 2012.
At the time of writing, it looks as though Greene King is likely to submit planning applications for a total of ten houses on the land behind the pub, currently occupied by the village recreation ground. In exchange, Greene King has proposed creating a play area for younger children within the new housing development and donating part of a field on the edge of the village (just off the Livermere Road) that could be used as a recreation area for older children.
Last year the Parish Council — after amicable discussions with Greene King and St Edmundsbury officials — thought a deal had been done that would have been a “win win” for everyone. The village would no longer have to rent the play areas under a fragile annual licence from Greene King, instead it would own the new areas outright; the Bull would be sold with a promise that it remained a pub; a small development of five houses would help satisfy the borough’s demand for new build; and Greene King would make some money.
Then St Edmundsbury planners knocked the legs out from under the table.
On receipt of a formal planning application from Greene King for a development of five houses and the new play areas, the borough’s planners argued that Greene King should withdraw the application and instead draw up plans for a development of ten houses, to be submitted as two separate applications — one for two houses next to the pub and a further eight houses on the remainder of the recreation ground.
What lies behind this sudden change of plan, which apparently took Greene King as much by surprise as it did the parish council? It’s a bit of a puzzle.
The St Edmundsbury core strategy document, adopted in 2010, lays down the planning policy for so-called “infill villages”, of which Troston is one. The document says quite clearly: “In these villages, only infill development comprising single dwellings or small groups of five homes or less within the designated housing settlement boundary would be permitted”. It was this policy that led Greene King to abandon its original plan to build 21 houses on the recreation ground.
The Parish Council has been stunned by the latest turn of events and has asked the council’s chief executive to explain how it is that the borough’s planners can apparently ignore their own policy.
That said, the Parish Council is still awaiting the formal applications for the ten houses and has not yet decided whether to object to that aspect of the latest Greene King proposals. What the council is most keen to ensure is that the village gets the best recreational facilities possible. Although Greene King has promised that the play equipment will be adequately replaced, we should have been able to rely on the Borough Council to negotiate a net gain for the village. Unfortunately, our confidence in council planners is now at a pretty low ebb.
Our priorities now are to ensure that the new recreational facilities are adequately funded by Greene King; that the field the company is giving to the council is properly grassed over at Greene King’s expense; and that power cables running across part of the field are re-routed. (The latter two are going to be a battle). The Parish Council will be meeting with borough planners to try to get all of this formally incorporated in any planning permissions.
And what of the pub? One buyer has apparently expressed interest in buying the building, with a rumoured sale price of around £175,000. Greene King has promised the Parish Council that it will be sold with a covenant stating that it must remain a pub, though of course such a covenant between Greene King and the new owner could always be renegotiated further down the line. What is clear is that the pub will not be sold until planning permission for the housing development is granted, because that will determine the curtilage of the pub.
In the meantime, the Parish Council is aiming to register the pub as a “community asset”, which will mean that the council must be notified in the event of a formal sale being tentatively agreed, so that a counter bid could be made, if desired, on behalf of the community. Such a bid is probably not on the cards, but registering the pub at least keeps the parish council in the loop.
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