A SCHEME to convert a disused village pub near Malvern into housing has been thrown out by planners.

The application, for the Cliffe Arms in Mathon, was to convert the building into two houses, and to build a third one in the garden.

Planners from Herfordshire Council, which made the decision, said the application presented "insufficient evidence that this community facility is not a viable business and could not continue to meet community need.

"This is given that the Cliffe Arms, Mathon, has not been marketed appropriately, in terms of either solely as a public house or for an alternative community use, at a price which reflects business trading circumstances.

"Furthermore, the loss of this facility would not contribute to the social well-being, vitality and viability of the settlement."

Mark Haslam, spokesman for Herefordshire CAMRA said the group is pleased but not surprised that the application was refused.

He said: “The owners of the Cliffe Arms have made no effort to either market it for sale or lease it to a new operator, and have also turned down a number of offers for the premises as a pub.

"It appears they have been determined to let it lie empty. They were likely to be seeking to convert it into housing as they had neglected the property and can doubtless now make more money by selling it as housing.

“This unwillingness to sell or lease the pub not only results in the community being deprived of their pub, but it also means the planning application failed the marketing test as set out in the relevant planning policies.

"It is long overdue for the pub to be put up for sale, especially as there is at least one serious cash buyer still in the wings. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

He said that the application had attracted over 90 objections from village residents, a high proportion of village population.

At a meeting of Mathon Parish Council in August, 56 residents attended, all of whom registered their opposition to the plan.

In its objection the parish council said: "Changing the use of the Cliffe would deprive the parish of a social amenity, which is at the heart of the community and important for its health and wellbeing.

"The reinstatement of the pub would create employment opportunities and would enhance the tourism aspects for the bed and breakfast/holiday lets available in the parish."

"A number of potential buyers for the Cliffe to retain it as a pub have approached the owner, some via the parish council, but all offers have been refused. However, a local landowner is still able and willing to purchase the pub at market value, restore it and run it for the benefit of the local communits. Due to its location, on the edge of Malvern and close to Ledbury, the pub is a viable business opportunity.