The Windmill is an historical building in the centre of a Conservation Area, and a registered Asset of Community Value for Charlton Village. It is the only pub and community facility in the village and has been used as a centre for social, cultural and community gatherings for decades. Its loss is against National Planning Policy Framework, para. 70 “To deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs, planning policies and decisions should: • plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities…”
The North Herts District Council Local Plan recognises The Windmill as an important local facility which “should be protected wherever possible” (Policy ETC7, paras 5.33 – 5.36). Continued support for The Windmill as a public house and the independent viability assessments indicates that this facility is both needed and viable, based on past performance and future potential. ETC7 states that only where it can be evidenced that “reasonable attempts have been made to sell or let the premises “ will the loss of such facilities be allowed. The Windmill has been destroyed internally by the owner in an attempt to convert the property to residential use; the condition the property is marketed in, and the lease terms i.e. triple market rate, can hardly be considered as evidence of ‘reasonable attempts’. To date, the owner has refused to discuss terms of a sale with the campaign group.
Furthermore, Policy HC1 under Healthy Communities, states that the loss of community facilities will only be permitted where this is justified by:
i: The provision of replacement facilities, either on site as part of the development proposal or in an alternative appropriate location; ii: Showing that there is no local need for the facility or service and that any appropriate, alternative community use of the existing premises to meet local needs is not required: or iii: Demonstrating that the facility, or any reasonable replacement, is not, and will not be viable on that site.
The National Planning Policy Framework recognises that the planning system plays a role in facilitating social interaction and creating healthy, inclusive communities. People from all over the county, and especially Hitchin, Stevenage, Letchworth and local villages, have used the facilities at the Pub as well as the car park to enable them to enjoy their walks along the Hicca Way, bike rides and horse riding. These are healthy pursuits which the government & NHS have been promoting to guard against obesity, stress and heart disease, The Windmill is in a unique and attractive setting, inviting people out into the countryside.
The pub car park provides the only open space within the Village and is a valued community facility in it’s own right; it enhances the view of the river and pub forecourt area which is the main focal point of the Conservation Area. Without the car park, those continuing to visit Charlton in order to enjoy the nearby country pursuits would be forced to park along the roadside, causing obstruction to the Highway.
A recent survey in Charlton Village, indicated overwhelming support for the pub. The Windmill has served the community 150+ years and in the right hands, given the strong local support, the Windmill could be a successful business.
The Windmill provided jobs for 4-5 local people (landlord; bar staff; kitchen staff; cleaners etc.). In addition to those directly employed, a pub contributes a substantial amount of money each year to local suppliers etc. These economic benefits will be lost if the present proposal is accepted.