THE village of Bentworth is once again preparing to do battle over the future of The Star Inn.

In March this year residents put their weight behind a campaign to save the pub after a planning application was submitted to East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) in the name of Waller Energy Ltd of Wandsworth.

They wanted, to turn it into four two-bedroom houses, and a one-bedroom flat over a village shop, which would include a Post Office counter.

Following a meeting in June when Waller Energy Ltd carried out a public consultation exercise, a new application has now been submitted which asks for two-storey side and rear extensions to the building to provide four dwellings, and the provision of a French-style bistro, following the demolition of an existing front/side lean-to, single storey elements and outbuildings.

According to ‘Save our Star’ campaigner, Steve Wood, while this new application shows a reduction by one in the number of apartments proposed, the bar/bistro has space for very few covers, and has no kitchen or storage facility for supplies.

He views the bistro as “lip service” to community use: “In our opinion, this is just a cynical attempt to appear that they have listened to the community and are providing a facility to replace The Star.”

Mr Wood further points out that at the June meeting, the developer was told in no uncertain terms the proposal was “unacceptable” and that what the community wants is for The Star to remain as a working pub.

He further points out that an independent assessment had valued The Star at £370,000 and that information, submitted to district council planners by Christies, had provided evidence of offers received at and above the valuation by parties who wanted to buy and retain the business as a pub.

Mr Wood added: “This is crucial because it demonstrates that The Star could have been sold as a pub.”

He went on to say that just because someone is prepared to pay more than its commercial value as a pub, this should not mean that its community value should be overlooked in favour of change of use to residential.

The ‘Save our Star’ campaign was launched at the time of the original application and local concern was expressed via 112 letters of objection to East Hampshire District Council planners who, in May, turned down the application on grounds that the pub was a registered Asset of Community Value and constituted a local community facility.

Furthermore, planners felt there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that an adequate marketing campaign had been undertaken to retain the facility or to find a suitable alternative community use.

And that the loss would be insufficiently mitigated by the proposed shop, with no evidence provided that it would be viable in this location.

It was concluded that the “unjustified loss” of the facility would be detrimental to the social and economic well-being and quality of life of the community.

A building of traditional appearance constructed circa 1834 and prominently located in the centre of the village, planners felt the proposed redevelopment of The Star would be “cramped” and of too high a density, resulting in “significant harm to the character and appearance” of the building in the street scene and the Bentworth Conservation Area.

For these reasons it would be against local and national planning policy.

In gearing up for the next round of the battle to ‘Save our Star,’ campaigners have distributed leaflets in Bentworth and the surrounding villages, urging people to register their objections to the new application which, if given permission, will sound the death knell for the pub.