A family has spoken of its joy at winning an epic legal battle for planning permission to sell their recession-hit pub as a residential property.
Mrs Pat Gillham 77, and her son Mark were ‘over the moon’ after finally claiming victory in their eight-year battle to allow a change of use for the Deepwell Inn at Northchapel, which has caused them near financial ruin.
Members of Chichester District Council’s north area development control committee voted against officers’ advice to deliver a knife-edge majority of 6-5, allowing the move.
It had previously been rejected a staggering five times, contributing, it was claimed, to the decline in health of Mrs Gillham who had struggled to maintain the venue as a going concern while the planning saga unfolded.
According to an agents’ statement on behalf of Mrs Gillham, the venue had faced strong competition from the nearby village working men’s club and thriving rival watering hole the Half Moon.
After the decision Mark Gillham said: “We are just so elated, this is just the best thing that could have happened. It will be sad when we do go as it’s been 25 years here which has been a big chunk of our lives.”
The 50-year-old said he had worked hard to support his mother in trying to keep the venue alive, but after a decade of trying to market it without a firm sale, they had been left feeling in despair of the planning process.
He added: “We just realised over time that we just cannot live with the standard of living gained from the pub.
“We have never been a busy pub at the best of times as being on the main road, people just drive straight past us. We have also been up against the likes of Chris Evans’ pub, The Mulberry, not far away who is able to get celebrity chefs to cook for him.
“We have been earning so little from the pub – last week it was just £400 for the week when we have things like electricity bills which are £600 a month. We own the freehold on this place so we should be able to do what we want with it. But the council planning department just didn’t even look at things like this.”
Speaking at the committee meeting, Midhurst councillor Brian Weekes proposed to allow the change of use for the pub. He said the council should ‘end the misery’ of Mrs Gillham, who had been in poor health, having undergone several operations in recent years.
Echoing his views, Cllr Julie Tassell (Funtington) said: “Sometimes you have to put people before policy. This is making Mrs Gillham’s life a misery and we need to look after older people in our community so I am voting for this to be allowed.”
However, council officers stood by their initial assessment that more needed to be done to look at alternative uses for the building as a commercial enterprise.