Residents in Scotton are battling to save their village’s only pub from closure.
The Guy Fawkes Arms faces an uncertain future after owners Punch Taverns submitted a “change of use” planning application for the site, which could see it converted into homes, but villagers have set out to save the historic pub, named after Scotton’s most famous resident, for the community.
Erica Ashmore has lived in the village for 18 years, and said losing the pub would be “unthinkable” for the community.
“I just think it would be horrific. Scotton has a school, a village hall, a church and a chapel and lots of people are involved with those things, but the pub is the only place where everybody comes together,” she said.
The closure of the Guy Fawkes would devastate the area, forcing residents to travel miles to Ripley or Knaresborough to socialise with their neighbours, resident Peter Roberts added.
Current landlord Mark Witherington, who runs the Guy Fawkes Arms with his wife Tracy as Punch Taverns’ “tenants at will”, believes the village pub could thrive with the right management.
“This is a viable business. It’s got lots of potential and just needs some TLC,” he added.
“We’ve been here for eight weeks in the middle of winter and it is ticking along. The locals have been great, within a week of us hearing about the planning application they had mobilised to save the pub.”
Mark and Tracy have provided hot meals for elderly residents who have struggled to get out in the cold weather, and would like to set up a community shop in part of the pub, they added.
Objectors packed into the parish council meeting on Wednesday, January 23, and a community meeting on Thursday saw the pub full with concerned residents. Almost 200 people have signed a petition opposing the planning application, and dozens have submitted objections to Harrogate Borough Council’s planning system.
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Coun Anthony Alton, ward member for Scotton, has contacted the planning committee and confirmed the case will be heard by the committee rather than planning officials, with a decision likely towards the end of February, he said.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is supporting the campaign.
He said: “I can see from the reaction of the residents that this pub is dear to them and they are determined to keep it open. Rural pubs like the Guy Fawkes Arms are a key ingredient in community cohesion and they should be protected.”
A spokesman for Punch Taverns has defended the application for change of use, saying the pub remained open to serve the community while the company reviewed its status.
The spokesman added: “We do appreciate the concerns of local residents but we look to review our estate regularly and may explore other options around the future of our less sustainable sites, or where they might better fulfil their potential for the local community under different ownership.”
When pressed, they would not clarify whether this meant as a working pub with new owners, or as a private home.