The Ship must sail again: Planning inspector dismisses plan to convert remote Fenland pub into housing

The Ship Inn at Purls Bridge, Manea.

The Ship Inn at Purls Bridge, Manea. - Credit: Archant

VILLAGERS backed plans to convert a remote Fenland pub into housing - but the application has been dismissed by a planning inspector keen to support a “prosperous rural economy”.

The Ship Inn at Purls Bridge, Manea.

The Ship Inn at Purls Bridge, Manea. - Credit: Archant

Elaine Worthington upheld Fenland District Council’s decision to refuse permission for The Ship Inn, at Purls Bridge, near Manea, to be transformed into homes.

Landlord Wayne Bishop and his wife claimed the pub was “no longer financially viable”, with its remote location, increases in beer tax, cheap supermarket alcohol and the smoking ban bringing trade to a standstill.

But Fenland District Council’s planning committee refused the conversion plan in May last year - and Mr Bishop’s appeal has been dismissed.

Mrs Worthington said she “found no compelling or substantiated evidence regarding the viability or marketing of the business to persuade me that the pub does not have the potential to prosper in the future under the existing or an alternative ownership”.

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The Ship, which sits alongside the Old Bedford River, has been on the market since October 2010. There have been seven enquiries but no viewings, with feedback suggesting “the pub did not have sufficient features to justify the asking price”.

The planning inspector accepted that Mr Bishop had tried to keep the business open, extending the pub with an open log fire, pool, darts and dominoes at the bar.

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But she insisted that “insufficient information has been provided to enable a meaningful assessment of the pub’s viability”, with no profit figures since 2010.

Villagers and neighbours spoke in support of the plans to close The Ship last year.

The planning inspector’s report acknowledged that “opportunities for passing trade are limited” but said the pub had featured in a walking guide and “attracted customers from all over the country”.

She claimed The Ship did not face “undue competition” as the nearest pub, The Rose & Crown, is three miles away in Manea and “arguably caters for different customers”.

Mrs Worthington concluded that the conversion proposal would conflict with the aim of “supporting a prosperous rural economy”.

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