A FORMER village pub that was once due to reopen thanks to a Michelin-starred chef and strong community support could now be converted into offices.

The Stags Head was a cornerstone of Great Warford, near Alderley Edge, before it closed its doors in 2014 and was sold to Ribble Valley Inns.

It was granted planning permission to expand with extra hotel rooms in April 2017 – despite Cheshire East Council officers calling for the scheme to be rejected – after villagers urged the northern planning committee to save their local.

But the redevelopment never came to fruition – and now fresh plans have been submitted to CEC to use the old Stags Head as offices for financial and professional services firm Regent Level Limited.

In its application to CEC on behalf of the company, Richard Lee Project Planning said: “The proposal will have a positive economic impact upon the local economy through job creation and the supply of goods and services.

“It would also deliver additional potential spending power within local shops, food, drink, goods, and services.

“The proposal comprises the re-use of an existing building. It represents an effective and efficient use of the property.

“The proposed conversion works have been designed in a manner that respects environmental considerations, without causing material harm to the environment.”

Ribble Valley Inns was owned by Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth and award-winning hotelier Craig Bancroft, both of the Northcote Hotel in Ribble Valley, Lancashire.

Knutsford Guardian:

From left: Craig Bancroft and Nigel Haworth

The firm won planning permission from CEC to overhaul the Stags Head in 2016 and intended to reopen the pub the following year.

It then submitted bigger plans to the council for an annex to provide more hotel bedrooms the following year – claiming that the scheme was the only way of making the pub viable to run.

CEC planning officers called on councillors to refuse the scheme – with the pub being set in Cheshire’s green belt – but local councillors and residents convinced them to back the plans.

Cllr Peter Halman, then-vice chairman of Great Warford Parish Council, told the committee that the village ‘will be a better place when it reopens’ – while resident Donald Strathdee claimed that ‘in losing the Stags Head our village has lost its heart’.

However, Ribble Valley Inns was sold off the following year and the Stags Head site was bought by Regent Level Limited.

The applicant says that 18 full-time members of staff could be employed at the premises, which would be open Monday to Saturday, and the site’s existing 40-space car park would be kept.

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If approved, a replacement single-storey extension would be built to the rear of the pub, although Richard Lee Project Planning says the building’s appearance ‘will hardly change’.

Residents can comment on the plans until Wednesday, September 18, and CEC hopes to make a decision next month.

To view the scheme, search for ‘19/3994M’ on CEC’s planning portal.