Windmill pub owner launches appeal against flats refusal - and accuses city council of behaving ‘unreasonably’

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate will now decide on the future of the the Windmill pub in Bedminster

The owner of the Windmill pub in Windmill Hill, Bedminster, has launched a planning appeal against Bristol City Council’s refusal of its plans to turn the local into flats.

Bar Wars Ltd has also applied for its costs for the appeal process to be paid by the city council, which it says has ‘behaved unreasonably in refusing planning permission’.

The appeal, which will be decided by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, was lodged on February 11 and is the latest twist is the ongoing saga surrounding the pub’s future.

It is also a blow for campaigners who celebrated when the city council’s planning committee refused the company plans to turn the pub, on the corner of Windmill Hill and Eldon Terrace, into five flats in November.

Members of the planning committee had refused the application on the grounds that losing the pub would be unacceptable because it was demonstrably viable and that there was not a diverse range of pubs which could be accessed safely by all groups in the area.

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

Despite their own planning officers recommending approval, saying the loss was acceptable as there are 14 pubs ‘within a reasonable walking distance’, members sided with campaigners who said there was only one other pub that was within safe walking distance.

Appeal statement

In their appeal statement, Bar Wars Ltd’s planning agents reaffirmed that the pub was no longer viable and there was a diverse range of pubs nearby - and added if either was true then that was enough for the appeal to be upheld under planning policy.

They added that despite refurbishing the pub and introducing events such as quiz nights, open mic and film nights, the company had seen turnover fall each year, with a post-tax loss of £7,096 in 2020.

The statement added that planning policy for refusal is based on a lack of pubs within ‘a reasonable walking distance’ - and that an Avon and Somerset Crime Prevention officer had raised no objection.

Application for costs

The company, which took over the pub 13 years ago, has also applied for a full costs award against Bristol City Council for the appeal process.

In a statement, its planning agents said the claim was ‘ on the basis that it has behaved unreasonably in refusing planning permission’, adding that the unreasonable behaviour had been ‘substantive’.

It said members of the planning committee did not assess whether there were a sufficient offering of pubs within a reasonable walking distance - instead considering if routes to alternative pubs were ‘desirable and/or safe for certain people (including women and members of the LGQT+ community)’.

Other grounds for the application for costs were preventing development which should ‘clearly be permitted’ and ‘vague, generalised or inaccurate assertions about a proposal’s impact’.

Recent history

The pub closed in March 2020 before the first pandemic lockdown.

Since then, the owners have put it on the market and tried numerous times to get permission to convert the building into five flats, saying it is no longer profitable.

Campaigners desperate to save the pub failed to raise enough money to buy it and accused the owner of deliberately running it down and overpricing it.

What happens next

After the planning appeal was lodged, people have until March 16 to comment on the appeal by visiting the Planning Inspectorate website.

Final comments from the pub owner must be sent by April 1 before a site visit by the inspector.

A decision will then be made on the appeal, which will be published by Bristol City Council and the Planning Inspectorate.