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Villagers in battle to save pub

A VILLAGE could lose one of its ‘high profile’ pubs that has been a focal point for over 40 residents who live in park homes behind the inn.
A planning application has been submitted to South Hams Council to convert the Deer Park Inn at Stoke Fleming into six contemporary apartments with car parking and landscaping.
Approval for the conversion project is being sought just nine months after the Hertfordshire property company that bought the public house and restaurant, ID Estates, said it intended to develop the existing trading areas and retain the current residential element.
The large, detached, three-storey property, which has a restaurant, lounge bar and conservatory, four self-contained flats, five-bedroom house, substantial beer garden, swimming pool and car park, was sold last April off a guide price of £575,000 plus VAT.
At the time, property agents Christie and Co described Deer Park Inn as a ‘high profile’ pub in Stoke Fleming.
Richard Wood, of the agents’ Exeter office, said: ‘Following a comprehensive regional and local advertising campaign, a number of offers were received demonstrating a real demand for high quality, substantial public houses in aspirational areas of the south west.’
But now applicant, David Lipfriend, a director of ID Estates, wants to build a mixture of two and three and one four bedroomed homes at the site, at the entrance to the Dartmouth Camping and Caravanning Club on the edge of the village.
And a planning statement submitted as part of the application claims that the current use is unviable and has very little benefit to local residents.
But so far two letters of objection, submitted to South Hams Council’s development management committee, maintain the inn has been an important community facility for many years.
Daniel Duncum, who lives at the Deer Park Homes Village, said the 44 residential park homes behind the inn had been overlooked in the planning report.
‘I find this odd as the inn has always been the focal point for the residents who were very good customers,’ he said.
‘I would also like to point out that several functions have been held there, including the meetings for the Deer Park Residents Association.
‘The local Stoke Fleming Bowling Club also used to meet after each game and had their Christmas function there.
‘The Green Dragon public house in the village is small in comparison and will not be able to cope with large numbers.
‘There are more new houses being built next year in School Lane and this will be the only pub between Slapton Sands and Dartmouth. I believe the local community cannot afford to lose yet another pub.’
Mr Duncum said he also believed that Stoke Fleming was not in need of more residential properties that ‘in all probability’ would become second homes that were empty for most of the year.
Mr B Morris, a disabled resident from the homes park, said he had enjoyed socialising with friends and neighbours at the inn for over 20 years.
‘Since the pub closed my social life, together with that of many other residents of this small community, has been seriously curtailed and much social contact has been lost,’ he wrote.
‘The hope was that it would reopen as a pub/restaurant or similar.
‘The distance to the Green Dragon from my home is half a mile, on a steeply inclining road. Due to my health, I am unable to use this pub.
‘The Deer Park Inn has the benefit of a very large off-road car park, no other pubs in the local area provide this. It also has large comfortable areas which have been used on many occasions for parties, weddings and other large functions for 100 or more guests.
‘Deer Park Inn has been an important community facility for many years and in the past, a very busy and successful business. To allow change of use because the last owner failed in his business venture can’t be right.’
But, in a statement submitted on the applicant’s behalf from Mark Evans Planning Ltd, it is claimed the loss of the ‘underused commercial facility’ cannot reasonably be argued to significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits of providing new housing on the site.
The development would provide residential units suitable for family housing that would meet local need, says the report.
‘The proposed design and traditional materials of the development will significantly improve the external appearance and character of the building and will contribute positively to landscape setting of the locality.
‘The development will not have a dominant, overbearing impact or result in any significant loss of light or privacy to the neighbouring properties.’
The applicant claims that a statement from a previous owner of the site showed that the bar and restaurant as an ancillary to the main campsite was very limited and economically the premises has been unviable for a considerable number of years.
Mark Evans Planning said the Deer Park Inn was not considered to be a genuine community facility that was essential to serve its economic or social needs and this function was already adequately served by the Green Dragaon pub and other restaurants in the locality.
The report highlighted figures on the Trip Advisor website which revealed the Deer Park Inn had received just three reviews in comparison to 61 for the Green Dragon, together with an entry in the Good Pub Guide.
Most of application site falls within the development boundary for Stoke Fleming, with only the current car park to the north east lying outside and within a designated Coastal Preservation Area.
The whole site falls within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Vehicle access is shared with the caravanning camping park off Dartmouth Road.
The highway authority notes the proposals would decrease the amount of traffic through the existing substandard access and therefore has no objection.
Mr Lipfriend is also seeking separate approval for a new three-bedroomed chalet bungalow at Deer Park with car parking for two vehicles.

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