Residents have been told there is insufficient evidence to support the permanent closure of a Grade II listed Victorian village pub they are battling to retain.

Just weeks after residents had the Horseshoe Inn at West Rounton registered as an  Asset of Community Value, North Yorkshire Council planning officers have recommended a move by its owner, Stan Taylor, to change its use to a residential property is rejected.

The advice to a meeting of the authority’s Richmond constituency planning committee on Thursday, April 11, comes after Mr Taylor began marketing the pub in January last year for £375,000, before reducing the price to £300,000.

In the subsequent 15 months there have been no viewings or offers for the pub.

Documents lodged with the authority state tenants surrendered their lease during the 2020 Covid lockdown, but by the end of 2022, Mr Taylor decided to close the pub due to limited trade, energy costs and difficulties in the hospitality industry.

In planning documents, Mr Taylor states it had “clearly been demonstrated that within the village there is insufficient usage and support to sustain the present premises”.

The application points towards three pubs in neighbouring villages, which have larger populations to support them than West Rounton.

The papers state: “It is obvious and apparent that The Horsehoe Inn is no longer financially and operationally viable. There is no reasonable prospect, or, indeed any need to secure a viable satisfactory alternative use. There is no likelihood of improvement, even in the long-term future, which could change this position.”

However, alongside objections from West Rounton Parish Council, which has said the loss of the pub would severely impact on the community, a local community interest group is continuing to look at ways the pub could be made more economically viable and improve its integration into the village.

While residents have studied how the George and Dragon at Hudswell, and the Travellers Rest, at Skeeby, became community pubs, local support for the pub has significantly grown through the commitment of pledges which now total more than £55,000.

In addition, the community group has applied to the Government’s Community Ownership Fund available to rural communities in a bid to purchase the pub.

Nevertheless, a planning officers’ report to the meeting states Rountons Community Interest Group had asked to meet Mr Taylor to discuss buying the pub several times, but he had declined the offer and refused to allow an independent evaluation and survey of the pub.

The planning officer’s report highlights the Hambleton Local Plan states proposals which would result in the loss of premises or land currently or last in community use will not be supported unless it can be demonstrated there is no reasonable prospect of securing a viable satisfactory alternative community use.  The report concludes while it is evident the property “is not attractive to the current market”, Mr Taylor has provided “only limited evidence relating to the recent trading history of the premises and has provided evidence of the recent marketing of the property”.

It states: “It is noted that the premises has recently been designated as an Asset of Community Value and the activity of the community pursuant to the purchase of the public house is a significant factor. On this basis there is a prospect of securing a continued use as a public house.

“Given that there is an opportunity to bring the pub into community ownership, the proposed change of use is not considered to weigh in favour of the proposals, in the planning balance.”