THE family living in Llanvapley’s former pub have lost their appeal to be legally able to call the old Red Hart building their home.
Jim Sharp and his wife Jean, who took over the pub in 1993, have just been informed of the planning inspector’s decision not to grant a certificate of lawful use or development after Monmouthshire County Council had originally refused to grant the couple and their extended family a change of use of the pub in June of this year, despite the pub closing more than ten years ago.
Prior to its closure, Mr Sharp spent many years battling with the relevant authorities in trying to reduce his business rates in order to make running the village pub a viable concern.
But he found trading difficult and the Red Hart ceased trading on October 1, 2002. Much of the pub’s fixtures and fittings have since been removed and at the time local people formed an action group, the Red Hart Supporters Club, in a bid to save it from permanent closure.
The Red Hart’s licensees were Mrs Sharp and the couple’s daughter Gillian Cattroll whose accreditations expired in February 2004 and the requirement for the premises to hold a licence to operate as a pub was ’abandoned’ at the same time.
The legal status surrounding the Red Hart has since been a long running affair and in November 2004 Monmouthshire planners refused the Sharps permission to change its use into a home. The council concluded at that time the building was a mixed use of public house and dwelling house use in a single planning unit.
However in February 2005 the Valuation Office Agency reclassified the building and the grounds as a single dwelling and the council tax banding was amended.
The owners claimed that the bar was largely removed in August 2005 when it was discovered that the wood was rotten as it had been infested by woodworm and was burned.
In November 2011, Monmouthshire County Council issued an enforcement notice to the building’s owners, which dictates that certain areas of the bar cannot be used for residential use.
Residents told the recent public inquiry that the ground floor was being used as living space and that the bar was still in situ as of Christmas 2007. But the Sharps said the majority of the bar area was being utilised for storage because of the lack of living space upstairs.
Planning Inspector Iwan Lloyd concluded that from the evidence available he deduced that the change of use of the Red Hart pub to a single dwelling house had not occurred within the time frame and that the premises were not used as a single dwelling house throughout the whole of the period of more than four years prior to 11 December 2010.
Mr Lloyd added: "I conclude that the Council’s refusal to grant a Certificate of Lawful Use was well-founded, and the appeal should fail."
County Councillor Geoff Burrows who was the chairman of the Red Hart Supporters Club said that this was the end of the line for the Sharp family in trying to get legal dwelling status on the building.
He said: "The Red Hart has been a public house for some 360 years and the inspector’s ruling coupled with the council’s enforcement notice means that it can only ever be sold as a public house and not as a dwelling.
"The Sharps have a legitimate right to remain in the premises, but nothing stays the same and sometime in the future the building will eventually come back on the market as a pub."