More than 800 objections to plans to convert historic Derbyshire pub into house close to Florence Nightingale’s childhood home

The Yew Tree Inn at Lea Hurst, Derbyshire
The Yew Tree Inn at Lea Hurst, Derbyshire

Plans to convert a popular historic pub into a house close to Florence Nightingale’s childhood home in Derbyshire have been met with a mountain of objections.

The application, submitted by Mr and Mrs C A Westnedge to Amber Valley Borough Council, would see the former Yew Tree Inn turned into a house.

However, the proposal has been met with 823 objections from residents and as a result borough council officers have recommended it is refused.

A decision will be made by councillors on the authority’s planning board on Monday, February 18.

The pub, built in 1839, lies a few hundred metres from the famed nurse’s former home at Lea Hurst.

It is thought to have close ties with the Florence Nightingale and Hurst estates.

The venue has been closed since 2008.

Its owner had run the pub since the late 1980s before buying it in 1991, and still lives in the upper floors.

An application to build holiday lets in the site’s car park was refused in 2007.

In 2011 the same applicants applied to change the use of the Yew Tree Inn into a house because attempts to market the site in its current use showed an ‘insufficient local demand to justify or sustain the building’s existing use as a public house’.

However, borough councillors roundly rejected the application due to the loss of a community facility.

The applicants promptly took the project to appeal, which was rejected on the same grounds in 2012.

The appeal inspector stated: “Whilst I accept that the public house was unprofitable for a considerable period, and apparently was not frequented by local people in large numbers in the years leading up to its closure, this could change in time and under different operating circumstances. Once the facility is lost, it is unlikely to be regained by the village.”

The inspector also found that an offer of £150,000 for the pub had been made but refused by the applicant.

Borough council planning officers now say that ‘this application is an identical submission of the previous application’.

It continues: “However, unlike the previous planning application, this proposal is not supported by a marketing exercise to justify the loss of the community facility.”

Dethick, Lea and Holloway Parish Council said: “The decision of the inspector (for the appeal) was that no genuine attempt to sell the premises had been made and nothing has been done since then to alter that situation.

“Local residents have made it clear that a public house in the village is highly desirable as there is no public transport in the evenings or on Sundays.”

It had also made an application to have the Yew Tree Inn listed as an Asset of Community Value – to protect it against further planning application – but this was refused by the borough council.

A petition signed by 803 people states that the site should remain available for public use, commenting that it should be a listed building due to its heritage value, once being well-used by mill workers.

Further objection letters state: “Too many public houses have closed in recent years and this trend can be reversed.”

Another objection comment says: “The arguments to the retention of the Community Facility apply as equally today as they did in 2012 when the planning appeal was dismissed.”

One objecting resident said: “Closure of the pub has lost the soul of the village as it is central to everyone in the village.”

Further objectors claim that the village would be further lacking in facilities if the pub is permanently lost as a community venue, which could lead to a rise in isolation.

The applicants, who have ‘no intention to vacate the property’ state that if the desire to re-open the Inn was as important to the community as the objectors indicated, it would have been incorporated within the area’s Neighbourhood Plan (a blueprint for future planning development).

Planning officers, recommending refusal, said: “For the duration of the time that the applicant may reside at the property, it is a realistic prospect that the public house will not re-open to serve the local community.

“However, approval of the application means that the community facility will be likely to be lost indefinitely.

“It is therefore considered that in the absence of any marketing exercise, the application remains contrary to both local and national planning policy and that insufficient evidence has been submitted to justify its loss.”

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service