NEW plans are being drawn up for The Star Inn at Bentworth and the owners, ABS Developments, are seeking input.

A public meeting has been set up for June 28 at the Jubilee Hall for residents to view the proposals, which will then be presented by developer Paul Williams. The meeting will be headed by district councillor Tony Costigan, who is keen to get the community involved.

Since its closure in 2015, the pub has become the subject of an active ‘Save our Star’ campaign to retain the facility for the community, rather than see it redeveloped for housing.

Registered by Bentworth Parish Council as an asset of community value, the bone of contention has been the inflated asking price, bearing in mind the poor state of the building.

East Hampshire planners have recently turned down a plan which would have converted the pub building into four two-bedroom houses, a one-bedroom flat and a village shop with post office counter on the grounds that it is a registered asset of community value and constitutes a community facility.

There was felt to be insufficient evidence to demonstrate that an adequate marketing campaign had been undertaken by the applicant in an attempt to retain the facility or to find a suitable alternative community use.

Furthermore, the loss of the facility would be “insufficiently mitigated by the proposed shop” and no evidence to reassure that it would be viable in this location.

The proposal would consequently result in the “unjustified loss of the facility to the detriment of the social and economic well-being and quality of life to the community.”

Planners also pointed out that The Star was “an attractive period building occupying a prominent and central position” within the village conservation area, and the proposed conversion and extension of the building would result in a high-density development that would result in “significant harm to the character and appearance” of the building and to the street scene - all of which would be contrary to local planning policy.

According to Paul Williams, having been in the business for 30 years and with 10 to 12 pub conversions under his belt, his company is well versed in the development of sensitive sites, and has a policy of working with and listening to local people and to adjust any ideas put forward.

While whatever is achieved has to be commercially viable - and it is clear the building is in “a bad state of disrepair, needing significant capital investment”, the aim will be to achieve the best possible outcome bearing in mind current rules and regulations and what locals would like to see on the site.

While welcoming the opportunity to view the revised plans, Bentworth Parish Council chairman David Hawes, a strong supporter of Save our Star, said: “It is a great shame the pub is in such a state and that it will cost a lot to turn it back into a pub, but it is what the village wants.”

Save our Star campaigner Steve Woods said: “The decision by EHDC to refuse permission for the application to develop The Star comes not just with a huge sense of relief but also of assurance that there is a workable system in place to protect the character of rural villages. That the pub’s status as an asset of community value was prominent in the decision makes it clear that these are not just throwaway tags that sound good but they actually carry some weight too.

“I am convinced that the extensive show of strength by the village and community beyond demonstrated to EHDC that it is indeed still regarded as an asset that we wish to see, once again, performing its function as a place for people to get together in the heart of our village.”