CHANGES have been agreed for a pub site near Weymouth which should see it re-open and secure its future.

They include converting existing buildings on the site of the Sly Fox, Osmington into two homes and a new pedestrian access onto Preston Road.

Alterations are also planned to the pub, which has been closed since 2019, and which the owners intend to re-open although, in their own words: “on a smaller, more viable, scale,” with a reduced floor area comparable to other pubs in the area.

The changes to the pub include demolishing an area of flat roofing and a ground floor bay as well as replacing a dilapidated orangery, adding an extension to the terrace and relocating the main entrance. Ramps will also be added to the terrace areas to improve access with part of the building to be clad in timber boarding.

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Dorset Council has agreed the changes proposed by Longshore Developments Ltd.

Osmington parish say they would like to see the proposed cottage conversion tied to the pub as an income stream, although Dorset Council has said it is unable to secure that agreement. The parish has also raised concerns about the safety of the new pedestrian access and the apparent lack of pub parking shown in the plans, although the developers say the parking will remain.

The conversions will create a two-bed and a three-bed home, one from Stone Cottage on the southern boundary of the site which fronts the main road and dates from at least 1889, the other from a later stable block at the opposite end of the plot, which was previously used as a bar.

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Work has already started on both buildings with the roof covering of the Stables removed and the cottage surrounded in scaffolding.

A planning officer says the roadside cottage building needs to be retained, although the link from it to the pub can be demolished: “The stone cottage is an important building in its own right and makes a positive contribution to the character of the conservation area, and should therefore be retained. I consider that the sensitive conversion of it to residential accommodation is likely to lead to a beneficial impact upon the character of the conservation area. Similarly, a sensitively managed separation of the buildings which allows the pub to be retained would be beneficial in terms of the character.”

The pub dates back to 1948 when for the first time it was shown on maps as a hotel. Until then the site had been recorded only as Hitts Farm. Until recent years the pub was named The Sunray.

Osmington ward councillor Nick Ireland has welcomed the planning agreement for the site: “The proposed alterations to the old Sunray site by Longshore Developments have received almost completely unqualified support from Osmington Parish Council and the community. Having been closed for nearly five years, and with subsequent numerous issues on the vacant site, the site purchase and proposed return of a viable pub is welcomed by most.

“The changes to the historic pub building, especially by reorganising the layout and reducing it slightly in size, will help make it viable for a future tenant, and the conversion and sale of the two redundant buildings to housing will both revitalise the centre of the village and help fund phase two of the site’s development,” he said.

Cllr Ireland says that the company has told resident it intends to further develop the site for holiday accommodation or short term lets which could be in the form of shepherd’s style huts, pods or possibly something more permanent.

“Given the current out-of-date but still extant Weymouth & West Dorset Local Plan, and specifically the rule that only holiday accommodation or 100% affordable housing (as an exception site) is permissible, it is definitely not currently possible to get permission for new build open market housing, anywhere, within Osmington,” said Cllr Ireland.