Family in bid to resolve dispute over future of historic Yorkshire pub

The family of a multi-millionaire who has been embroiled in a row for almost a decade with villagers over the future use of a historic pub has unveiled plans which could resolve the dispute.

The latest plan for the Plough Inn, at Fadmoor, a gateway to the North York Moors National Park near Helmsley, would see internet pioneer Peter Wilkinson, investing funds into transforming the premises that has been an inn for 238 years. Photo credit: Tony Johnson

The latest plan for the Plough Inn, at Fadmoor, a gateway to the North York Moors National Park near Helmsley, would see internet pioneer Peter Wilkinson, who is reported to have a £390m fortune, investing funds into transforming the premises that has been an inn for 238 years into two local occupancy homes and four holiday lets.

Documents submitted to the park authority by Mr Wilkinson’s son and manager of the vast Pennyholme Estate and Bransdale Moor, Luke, described offers such as The Fadmoor Community Pub Company’s £350,000 for the inn which stands as a landmark beside the village green as not “remotely sensible”.

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Feelings have been running high in the village since Mr Wilkinson, who invented the concept of providing internet connectivity for the public at the cost of a local call rate to create internet access service Freeserve, suddenly closed the pub in 2011.

He said its 48-seat dining room, which featured in the Michelin Guide, was well used on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sundays, but the rest of the week it was quiet, and there was little business from the village.

While the Wilkinsons have repeatedly stressed the inn was a loss-making venture, the planning documents show agents who marketed the property for the family believed “a hands-on operator with food capability… could fully exploit the potential of the business”.

The documents state: “The property now stands empty and boarded up for insurance and security reasons and unfortunately has become a sad eyesore at this prominent location as the gateway to the village.

“In our opinion, as the former Plough Inn public house is now clearly not economically viable and has become an eyesore to the village and local residence alike and the two local adjacent communities clearly have sufficient alternative community assets and facilities.”

Responding to residents’ concerns, the property was registered as a Community Asset in 2013 by Ryedale District Council.

However, the application states as the pub is boarded up with no access for the public and therefore it makes no contribution to the community, “it is clearly not a Community Asset, on the contrary, it’s a Community Eyesore!”

The documents state: “The proposals as detailed in this application for holiday lets will make a positive visual, sustainable and economic contribution to the local economy by providing direct and indirect employment and securing the future of the existing buildings.”

The application also includes a bat report by Professor Roy Brown, who has been hailed as the world’s leading authority on the uplands and bracken control.

Residents have until the end of the month to comment on the proposals, which follow plans to convert it into an office for the estate being rejected in 2016.

North Yorkshire County councillor Val Arnold said she had yet to study the latest scheme, but it would “be better if the building was put to good use”.

Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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