Time has finally been called on the Boar’s Head in Barton after Preston City Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead for the historic hostelry to be bulldozed – five years after it closed down. Permission has been granted to build two pairs of three-bedroomed semi-detached houses on the cleared site.
A long-running campaign by locals to reopen the venue as a combined pub and community hub – providing services for the village – ended in disappointment in June 2020 after permission was granted for the building to be converted into two flats.
That would have seen several extensions to the pub removed, but retained its original structure, which is believed to date back to the early nineteenth century. A building is thought to have stood on the plot, on the A6 Garstang Road, since the 1600s – but the latest decision means that no part of the current one will be left standing.
Campaign to save historic Preston pub ends in “bitter disappointment”
Members were told that a structural appraisal carried out on behalf of the applicant, Conlon Living Limited – which has not yet taken ownership of the site – had concluded that the original part of the pub was in a “structurally vulnerable state”, because of the partial collapse of the more modern extensions.
A huge blaze broke out at the Boar’s Head in July 2019, which Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service later confirmed had been started deliberately.
Katie Delaney, the agent for the application, said at the planning meeting that the pub was beyond being salvaged.
“This site has been in a state for quite a significant period of time now and it does have detriment to the street scene in this part of Barton – so…we do feel [that the loss of the pub] is justified,” she added.
However, Preston Rural North ward councillor Keith Middlebrough told the committee that national planning guidance meant that the condition of the building – which is deemed to be what is known as a “non-designated heritage asset” – should not be a factor when considering whether to allow its demolition.
Addressing members, Cllr Middlebrough said that “new housing is not in short supply in Barton – heritage sites are”.
He added that residents were concerned with “protecting the look and heritage of Barton” – and claimed that the city council’s own building control team had advised Barton Parish Council that the Boar’s Head was not in need of “immediate demolition”.
However, planning case officer James Mercer said that under the national planning policy framework quoted by Cllr Middlebrough, the authority also had to make a “balanced judgement” on the future of the pub.
“We can’t ignore the most recent structural appraisal from the applicant, which says that this building is unsafe and potentially dangerous.”
Mr. Mercer added that the structure had deteriorated further in just the last year, telling the committee: “The current situation on the ground is that if this building is not demolished safely, it may come down of its own accord – [that] is what we are being told.”
Papers presented to members noted that, since 2020, “it does not appear that efforts have been made to prevent water ingress and fabric deterioration” of the pub.
Committee member Sue Whittam said that the site owners had “dragged their feet”, which had resulted in the “sorry state” that councillors were now left to consider.
She said that Barton residents were bound to feel let down after the “glimmer of hope” that part of the pub would be retained was extinguished, but added: “Although it’s sad…it’s time to draw a line under this now and move on.”
Conlon Living was granted permission by the city council earlier this year to build five, four-bedroomed detached dwellings on the car park of the former pub.
That decision came 12 months after the site owner, Barton NWL Properties Limited, had received “permission in principle” for up to eight dwellings on that land, along with the conversion of the pub itself into two flats and the building of two semi-detached houses following demolition of the extensions to the venue.
Rosemary McLean, who has been involved from the outset with the village campaign to save the Boar’s Head, said that the owners had been “determined right from the beginning to demolish it and get as much money as they can”.
She also said Preston City Council should have ensured that the site was developed only as a local amenity.
“There are houses popping up all around us in Barton, but not a shop anywhere – it’s so short-sighted.
“The Boar’s Head would have been brilliant as a village centre – but now 200 of years of history will soon be gone,” Rosemary added.
Barton NWL Properties Limited has been approached for comment.
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