Much-loved pub set to be turned into flats after owner ‘tried hard to make a success’

It is the fourth time plans to convert the pub have been put forward

<p>The Windmill pub was put up for sale at £500k - put no-one met the asking price</p>

The Windmill pub was put up for sale at £500k - put no-one met the asking price

A much-loved pub in Bedminster looks set to be turned into flats after councillors were recommended to approve the plan by their own planning officers.

The Windmill pub in the Windmill Hill area of Bedminster closed in March last year, before the first pandemic lockdown.

Since then, owners Bar Wars has made numerous attempts to get planning consent to convert the building into five flats, saying it is no longer profitable for them to run it as a pub.

But the attempts were blocked by legal challenges from a potential buyer who wanted to reopen the Windmill, with support from campaigners fighting to save the pub.

Now the plans are back for a fourth time, with a Bristol City Council planning committee due to consider them on Wednesday, November 24.

It comes after local residents and campaigners were joined by former mayor of Bristol George Ferguson at a protest against the proposals earlier this month.

Officers who have again recommended the plans for approval say they have resolved the legal issues raised by Nick James which forced them to withdraw planning consent granted in November 2020 and to pull the plans from the agenda of a planning meeting in July this year.

Mr James said the council had failed to properly consider the pub as an asset of community value and failed to consider how its loss would affect ‘protected’ groups such as the elderly.

He also accused the council of not properly applying planning rules that specify when a pub or community facility can be lost.

Officers said “these matters have now been addressed in full” in their report to Wednesday’s meeting.

They said “due regard” had been given to the impact of the scheme on groups with ‘protected’ characteristics, adding there are 14 pubs approximately 10 minutes’ walk from the Windmill.

They said they accepted “in good faith” accounts showing the pub ran at a loss for two years to November 2020.

The owners advertised the pub for sale for around £500,000 for more than two years, but no community groups bid to buy it while it was listed as an asset of community value, they said.

“It is understood that offers from a leading pub chain and individual party were received, but these either included sale conditions that were not favourable or were considerably below the asking price and so both were refused by the applicant,” they wrote.

Residents, whose Save the Windmill campaign managed to raise £170,000 last year, have previously accused the owners of neglecting the pub and pricing it out of their reach.

But the owners have said they tried hard to make the pub a success, and that the campaigners turned down their offer to take on the lease.

Mr James, who owns a pub in Wells and co-owns the Queen’s pub and restaurant in Chew Magna, has previously said he had had an independent valuation of the pub made at between £315,000 and £400,000, and was prepared to buy it to keep it open, but the owners had held out for almost £500,000 and would not sell to him.

Some 166 objections have been submitted against the application from Bar Wars to turn the pub at the corner of Windmill Hill and Eldon Terrace into two one-bedroom and three two-bedroom flats.

Objections have also been made by local Green councillor Lisa Stone, the Bristol Civic Society, and the Bristol and District branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ales), which supports campaigns to save local pubs from closure.