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New homes bid for centuries-old pub

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A BID to transform an historic Westbury Market Place pub into three new homes, divided members of the town council’s planning committee on Monday night.

Councillors were discussing  an application by Lily Design Ltd for the Grade II listed Lopes Arms, located in the Westbury Conservation Area, which has been empty for several years. The plans propose incorporating as much of the listed building into the new townhouses design as possible. 

Cllr Mike Sutton told White Horse News, “This is one of those interesting ones where we were evenly split between turning down the application and accepting it.

“We thought this is a hotel and former coaching house and would have been a wonderful asset for the town if it could be restored. But we were also conscious that it could be pie in the sky and the building could lay derelict for another two years while they were looking.

“Members resolved not to submit any comments to Wiltshire Council, which sounds weak, but actually the two sides were very strongly for and against.”

The building was listed Grade II in 1950. In recent years it was put up for sale but remained empty and in 2019 Westbury Town Council explored the possibility of getting it registered as a building of community interest, to save it from being turned into housing.

A statement accompanying the plan says, “The building as presented, given its historic value, lends itself to being divided neatly into three family homes, each similarly propositioned over two storeys, each with small but structured rear gardens and each with the requisite parking and amenity requirements of town centre homes.

“A new access point and six parking spaces will be created at the rear, via Alfred Street, to “avoid clutter” on Market Square. The statement concludes, “The redevelopment of The Lopes Arms is a fantastic opportunity to replace an ailing town centre building in a prominent town square location with a revitalised and fresh architectural solution for this fantastic setting.”

Historic pub

Liz Argent from Westbury Heritage Society said, “The current 18th century building is believed to stand on the site of a 14th century inn. In the late 1500s it was called the George and Dragon. Renamed the Lord Abingdon Arms in 1754 in honour of the local landowner, it became the Lopes Arms in about 1809 when Sir Manasseh Lopes bought the manor. 

“By the late 19th century, it was thriving as a commercial and family hotel with horse-drawn transport for hire. An omnibus was sent to meet every train arriving at Westbury station and bring passengers to the hotel. 

“It was also the venue for several local inquests and auction sales. 

“At the start of the First World War, it was briefly used to accommodate officers from the Army Service Corps. 

“Towards the end of the 20th century, it was renamed again and became the Westbury Hotel, before reverting to the Lopes for its final few years as a public house.”

In response to the planning application, local people took to social media to comment on the news. Some people said it was a shame that the building couldn’t be restored as a pub or restaurant, and were disappointed that it may be converted into houses instead. However, other comments said it was better to convert disused buildings rather than build more housing on new land.

2 Responses to New homes bid for centuries-old pub

  1. Peter Watkins

    May 26, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Such a shame for this historical building with so much history may now be turned into housing. Westbury seems intent on knocking down or chang these wonderful buildings into something not everyone can any longer enjoy.
    Why not look into changing this building into something useful for the people of Westbury.
    We lost the old pub on Warminster Road as it was knocked down to make way for Aldi.
    So please make the right decision for the people of Westbury so everyone can use this building for years to come. We should be proud of our history and its buildings NOT change everything into housing.

  2. Ian Cunningham

    May 26, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    The town council does not make any decision. It is the planning authority Wiltshire Council that does this. Also assigning a desire by the owner of the building to develop it to the town as a whole seems a bit unfair (Westbury seems intent) … this isn’t a public building over which the town has any direct control.
    That said, the previous Town Council did have a draft plan in its vision document that was being drawn up to make the building into a community venue (the artist’s impression looked very good) and we had already voted funds to ask the Town Clerk to instruct a surveyor to report on the condition as the rumours costs of repairs were high and the town council is not rich; we wanted to know what a purchase with urgent repairs might cost. Unfortunately, the survey never happened (not sure why in detail… a question for the staff) and the vision’s suggestion for the building was dropped once the council heard of the purchase and the plans. I seem to remember that one of the last requests of the group working on this was that the draft was shared with the owner just in case… but as community buildings aren’t known for being profitable this was a long shot.

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