The White Swan at Thornton-le-Clay: Huge support for villagers' plan to save their pub from being turned into housing

A campaign group who have succeeded in getting their village pub protected status have garnered support for buying it for the community.

Save Our Swan members believe as many as a quarter of the 500 people who replied to a survey would contribute financially towards a buy-out of The White Swan in Thornton-le-Clay, between York and Malton.

The pub closed in 2020 when its last tenants left and the owner, RIchard Harrison, has since applied to convert it into a five-bedroom family home, However, Ryedale Council rejected the proposal in the face of strong opposition and have now listed it as an Asset of Community Value, meaning it must remain as a pub and community groups prepared to run it will be handed the keys provided they can pay an agreed market price for the building.

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The White Swan at Thornton-le-Clay: Ryedale Council refuse permission for pub's ...
The White Swan at Thornton-le-Clay from the air

Save Our Swan campaigners are now attempting to raise capital from their supporters in order to make an offer to Mr Harrison, who is believed to have appealed the council's decision.

Several other groups across Yorkshire have pursued similar successful bids to be granted an ACV listing and have subsequently purchased their pubs and begun operating them themselves.

The SOS group's latest update read: "We can report an encouraging response to a questionnaire, which was sent out in April. The questionnaire, designed to gauge the level of potential support for The White Swan re-opening and how both locals and would-be customers from further afield, would like to see it represented, i.e. opening days/hours, activities, type of food and drink served, further facilities etc has had an incredible level of support.

"Five hundred responses have so far been analysed, with an overwhelming 96 per cent agreeing that Thornton-le-Clay would be a better place to live if the pub was to return. The distribution of the questionnaire was primarily via printed copies, delivered by hand within the local area, including surrounding villages within a four-mile radius. The questionnaire is also

available online and will remain accessible on the campaign’s website until May 31.

"Not surprisingly, engagement with village residents in Thornton-le-Clay, and neighbouring Foston, has been particularly high, with a response rate of over 80 per cent. However over 150 responses came from central York, Ryedale and even further afield, demonstrating the notion of The White Swan as a ‘destination pub’, and also one that would be a part of the tourism map of Ryedale, supporting the region’s economy.

"The questionnaire also looked at the willingness of people to invest financially to see how tangible it may be to raise a fair market value for the pub, should it be presented to the market in the future - this was also encouraging with more than a quarter of respondents indicating that they would be willing to offer financial support

"As one may expect, financial backing in the immediate vicinity is more heavily weighted with two-thirds of the pledged amount being from the two villages of Thornton-le-Clay and Foston.

"Now that The White Swan is listed as an ACV, the local community would have first chance to purchase, on the premise that an agreeable sum was offered to the current owners. This situation would stand for the initial six months of The White Swan coming to the market."

Chairman Matt Smith added: “The group are encouraged by the incredible support of the campaign so far, both in terms of the survey engagement and the level of financial back-up indicated. To us this goes one step further in demonstrating that this is a viable pub business, with marked potential to service local needs, aswell as supporting Ryedale’s increasing reliance upon tourism, and the need for local employment and support of tertiary and services businesses in the area.

"It has come at a good point, as we are now aware that current owners have indeed lodged an appeal against Ryedale Council’s refusal for planning permission, and so as we await to

learn more on the detail of the owners’ appeal, we are of the mind that right here, right now, we are in a position of strength from which to move our campaign forward.

"We reiterate that as a group we remain steadfast in our aim to follow this through for the very best outcome for the social and economic wellbeing of our rural community.”