CHANGES designed to encourage more uses for the Piddle Inn at Piddletrenthide have been refused by Dorset Council.

The proposals would have scaled-down the size of the pub area, but still allowed it to re-open, increasing the space available for holiday lets and bed and breakfast use.

Village residents had campaigned to have the pub designated as a Community Asset and to see it re-opened as a traditional pub – with many not convinced that the owner’s proposals would have achieved that.

Alterations had been requested to provide accommodation for the owner or manager, to install a guest kitchen, dining and sitting room to be used for holiday lets within the building and to use part of the ground floor for meetings and events.

The bar area would have been reduced in size and part of the dining area converted to other uses.

Changes were also proposed to some windows and doors in the application from Mr Alan Craske who bought the property in November 2020 when the pub was still closed from the pandemic period.

A planning agent told Dorset Council in the request for the changes: “The current owner has recognised the impracticality of opening the public house to customers based on its current size and layout.

"The property includes large areas dedicated to dining. The owner has been unable to recruit staff, and the costs of lighting, heating and cleaning of the building for small numbers as well as competition from local premises make the current public house format impracticable.

"The owner considers that a rationalisation/reconfiguration of the original public house/dining area is necessary to allow him to open the public house and prepare simple fayre as a viable one or two person business.”

The agent says that pub was not sustainable and had failed under a succession of different ownerships.

Said the agent: “The applicant needs to run a viable business and cannot operate at a loss despite the relevance of the public house to the community.  The proposed scheme does not result in the loss of the community asset, but introduces a reconfigured bar and separate air b and b with flexibility to use the ground floor space for meetings and events.”

Seventeen residents had objected to the proposals – many saying that all they wanted was a traditional pub.

Some argued that there is already enough letting accommodation in the valley and claimed  that a well-run pub could again be profitable.

Said one objector: “This proposal does nothing for the village community. We need to do all we can to maintain the community spirit within the valley. This proposal does not meet that criteria.”

Another claimed the conversion plans would be detrimental to the village: “It is a travesty to turn it in to profitable housing or accommodation.”

One questioned whether the bar area, as proposed, would even be open to residents, but limited to holiday guests.

“This would be a sad loss of yet another community asset, and an asset that has considerable support both locally and further afield. It is noticeable that the Martyrs Inn in Tolpuddle is re-opening on the basis of a very sensible and realistic business plan, showing that village pubs do have a future…” said another.

Piddle Valley Parish council raised similar concerns to many of the objectors adding that they believed there would be insufficient space for holidaymakers and pub users and said they were concerned that the proposed kitchen space would be inadequate for six proposed AirB&B bedrooms.

A Dorset Council planning case officer said the case had not been made to demonstrate why a successful pub business is incapable of being re-established, attracting both residents and those from further away.

“The location of The Piddle Inn is no more remote than other local successfully trading pubs and there is no realistic reason why a pub business could not flourish here, particularly being the only pub in the village… “The Council is not satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to justify the loss of the pub and the scheme would adversely impact on the social and recreational facilities and services the community needs.”