The White Swan at Thornton-le-Clay, near Malton, closed in March 2020 after the last tenants did not renew their lease and the owners of the building put it up for sale.
Residents were initially optimistic when a local couple, Richard and Tracy Harrison, bought the pub, which dates back to 1800, and indicated they would consider keeping it open as a wet-led venue without a food service while living on site. They began alterations to the property before submitting a planning application to change its use entirely to residential and convert it into a five-bedroom home.
A Save Our Swan group has now been formed to lobby Ryedale Council to reject the proposal and preserve the pub as a vital amenity by listing it as an Asset of Community Value, which would protect it from adverse development.
The White Swan was popular with locals as well as tourists visiting the coast, and had a good reputation for both its food and drinks offerings. It hosted charity fundraisers, occasional live music nights, coffee mornings and family gatherings.
The campaigners claim that the last tenants wished to purchase the freehold but were unable to do so after the owners raised the rent significantly.
Save Our Swan spokesman Julian Lamb said: “Many of us in the village feel passionately opposed to this change of use application. You only lose your ‘village local’ once, and once it’s gone, it’s gone, closing the book on over 200 years of village life - so now is the time to act.
"We feel particularly aggrieved as the pub was regularly busy, with a good following not only from Thornton and neighbouring Foston, but also from nearby villages such as Barton-le-Willows, Bulmer and Sheriff Hutton - many of which have lost their own locals in recent years. In this ‘Year of the Staycation’, you can’t get booked into a decent dining pub for weeks, especially one with a decent outdoor space like that which The Swan has.
"It’s potentially a huge loss to our community on so many levels, both socially and economically - it’s ironic that during the pandemic, many folk have rallied to support their local businesses more than ever, and yet the chance to support our hub of the community is potentially under threat.
"For some villagers, especially those who no longer drive, this amenity was a lifeline for their mental health, aside from anything else, .a factor which we now appreciate more than ever after the lockdowns.
"It’s also frustrating to witness that whilst planning applications have come and gone over the winter months, the conversion of our pub into a family home has carried on regardless, despite no planning permission being in place.”
Local B&B owner Angie Readey added that many of her guests had expressed disappointment at the pub's closure and that she feared it could impact other tourism businesses in the area.
"It’s a challenge now to direct them where to go instead to be honest, with so few comparable amenities in the area; some people have even turned down bookings on this basis."
Ryedale Council are inviting comments on the planning application, details of which can be viewed online, either via the online portal or in writing by Thursday July 8.