Rhubarb Tavern: Boost for campaigners hoping to reopen last pub in Bristol neighbourhood

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A planning committee has voted against granting permission for eight homes

Campaigners hoping to reopen the last pub in Barton Hill have received a boost after a planning committee voted against granting permission for eight homes.

But there was no vote to refuse consent, and councillors instead asked officers to come back to the next meeting with reasons for rejecting the proposals for Rhubarb Tavern.

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Bristol City Council development control committee was recommended to approve the plans for two flats above the pub and six more in a new three-storey block in the beer garden.

Officers said the business would still be viable – a claim disputed by opponents, including the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and Bristol couple Sunny Paradisos and Tara Clerkin, who crowdfunded more than £45,000 to reopen the bar as a music venue and not-for-profit community hub.

Councillors voted 6-3 against giving the go-ahead for the new homes at the meeting on Wednesday, January 24.

Cllr Chris Jackson (Labour, Filwood) said: “I disagree with the viability study because if this is built, that’s the end of the pub.

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“We need houses but my main objection is the viability of this pub.”

Cllr Fabian Breckels (Labour, St George Troopers Hill) said: “The pub garden is a valued open space in an area where open space is a challenge.

“The proposed flats are right on top of the pub itself, so the garden is really squeezed, and it’s going to cause conflict.

“I want to see the pub reopened but this development will hamstring the pub.”

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Committee chairman Cllr Richard Eddy (Conservative, Bishopsworth) said: “We should look positively at this proposal which aims to keep a community pub in the Barton Hill area and to provide housing which is desperately needed by Bristolians.

“For over three years this once community asset has fallen into misuse.

“It’s not being used for housing or a pub and it’s in a pretty shocking state of affairs.

“The last thing we want for this area is just another eyesore.”

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Cllr Andrew Varney (Lib Dem, Brislington West) said: “The Rhubarb Tavern is a significant historic building but it has hit upon hard times, it’s been derelict for a number of years, it is slowly deteriorating before our eyes.

“This application is an opportunity to restore this building and bring it back into public use.

“The loss of the garden is regrettable but the bigger picture is saving this building and providing much-needed housing.

“My concern is if we refuse, the building will remain derelict and will deteriorate further and we will have another Grosvenor Hotel on our hands.

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“The application is far from perfect but we need to support it, we need housing, we need to safeguard this significant historic building.”

A planning officer said an independent report concluded the pub required £900,000 to bring it back into use, so the building in Queen Ann Road required the development to be approved to give it a future.

He said: “In terms of the current application, it was found that once restored the pub would be a viable business opportunity and could run profitably,”

Pub owner Mona Mogharebi, director of developers Natan Ltd, said the pub had been on the market since August 2020 but no viable offers had been received.

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She said she would have to carry out the repairs for any tenancy to go ahead, which would be “financially unfeasible” without the planning permission.

Sunny Paradisos told the meeting: “The plan we had with the owner was she would cover certain repairs that were structural and we would do the rest at our own expense.

“For our vision of the pub we would need the garden and the upstairs because we want to create an accessible community space with a community garden, workshops and studios upstairs and a music instrument library.

“Without those, our vision is probably not viable.”

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