CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn an empty village pub into housing have been approved by Bradford Council.

Proposals to convert the Sun Inn into eight apartments, and build ten homes on the pubs grounds, had attracted scores of objections from Cottingley residents and local politicians.

The pub was shut in 2018, and a planning application to convert the building submitted by Sun Inn Developments in Spring 2019.

Objectors had raised concerns over traffic to and from the site and the loss of an important community facility.

Last year residents successfully applied to have the Sun Inn listed as an asset of community value, meaning that if the building was sold, the community would be given a chance to purchase the building.

At a meeting of Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee this morning, members were told they had to find a balance between two conflicting planning policies when deciding the application.

Green Belt housing plans are refused

On the one hand, policy states that community facilities such as pubs should be protected and retained where possible.

But at the same time it encourages housing to be built on available, previously developed sites - and the committee was told 200 homes were needed in Cottingley in the coming years.

Over 90 people had objected to the plans, with 25 voicing support for the scheme.

At the meeting Councillor Paul Sullivan (Cons, Bingley Rural) told members that the amount of objection showed the importance of the pub to the Cottingley community.

He pointed out that without a pub such as The Sun Inn in the village, families had to travel miles by car to get to the nearest family pub.

He said the previous owners had allowed parents on the school run to use the car park.

And he described the road network around the pub as “like Wacky Races around rush hour” and that the 18 homes would intensify congestion.

John Rowley, Principal Highways Engineer, said the housing estate would generate 10 to 12 movements during the morning traffic peak. He pointed out that when the pub was used for parking by parents on the school run it would likely have seen much more traffic during rush hour than the 18 homes.

Peter Down, from the Save The Sun Inn group, told members that when the pub had been run by Mitchell and Butler it had thrived. But when it was sold to Milton Pubs and Taverns, custom declined until the pub was shut and, along with many other Milton Pubs, the building was sold.

He said: “The applicants say it is no longer economically viable to operate the Sun Inn, but have provided no evidence to support this statement.

“The Sun Inn could prove to be a thriving business again and provide an important function to the local community.”

He said Bradford CAMRA had investigated the Sun, and found that it could be economically viable if it were to re-open as a pub.

Members were told that Sun Inn Developments purchased the site as a development site, not as a going concern.

Mark Illingworth of Sun Inn Developments, said: “These will be high quality homes.

“The pub required many employees, had expensive business rates and heating costs, and required a substantial amount of sales of alcohol and food to survive. The previous owner wasn’t achieving those sales.”

He said refurbishing the building to allow it to re-open as a modern pub would cost between £800,000 and £1 million, adding: “The hospitality sector has been hit by Covid, the short term viability of this being a pub is non-existent.”

Members acknowledged the issues around the pub’s closure, and the arguments put forward by objectors, but pointed out that they were there to decide whether the planning application before them was acceptable or not.

Councillor Russel Brown (Cons, Worth Valley) said: “Councillor Sullivan made some very good points, but we have to look at this as a planning application.”

Chair Councillor David Warburton (Lab, Wyke) said: “Trying to support community assets is a great thing if it’s possible. However with the current position nationally it would be extremely difficult for anyone to re-open it.”

With the building being an asset of community value, Cllr Warburton pointed out that should the developer decide to sell the site, the community would have the opportunity to come together to purchase it to try and return it to being a pub.

All members of the committee bar one voted to approve the plans.