Multi-millionaire Freeserve tycoon loses nine-year battle over plan to turn village’s only pub into holiday flats – as locals win chance to buy the boarded-up building by compulsory purchase
- Peter Wilkinson had 300-year-old Plough Inn on North York Moors boarded up
- Tycoon was refused permission to turn it into offices for his 19,000-acre estate
- Wilkinson – worth £390million – shut the pub in 2011, saying it cost him a fortune
- He was on brink of victory when a scheme to turn pub into lets was put forward
- But instead the Freeserve inventor was branded a ‘bully’ by national park bosses
A tech tycoon has lost his battle with villagers over plans to turn a local pub into flats as residents have won the chance to buy the building by compulsory purchase.
Peter Wilkinson had the 300-year-old Plough Inn boarded up after being refused permission to turn it into offices for his 19,000-acre estate on the North York Moors.
The internet pioneer, who is worth £390million, shut the pub in 2011, claiming it was costing him a fortune to keep open.
He told locals in Fadmoor – the setting for ITV’s Jack Dee sitcom Bad Move – to walk to the next village if they fancied a pie and a pint.
He then left the building to rot rather than sell it to locals, who could not meet the £500,000 asking price.
He seemed on the brink of victory this week when a scheme to turn the pub into holiday lets was recommended for approval.
But instead the Freeserve inventor was branded a ‘bully’ by national park bosses who said his plans would be a death sentence for the entire community.
Peter Wilkinson (pictured) had the 300-year-old Plough Inn boarded up after being refused permission to turn it into offices for his 19,000-acre estate on the North York Moors.
Planning bureaucrats had argued nothing could be done to save the pub because a refusal would be overturned on appeal.
But with the village’s only shop also facing closure, the plan to reopen the building as a pub and general store proved a winning pitch with the park’s governing body.
Yet Mr Wilkinson has refused to sell and will leave the building to fall down until he gets his own way, the meeting heard.
His plan to convert it into holiday cottages flies in the face of advice by the parish council that existing tourism accommodation in the village is already empty.
Members agreed the only way to save the historic pub was by a compulsory purchase order.
The internet pioneer, who is worth £390million, shut the pub (pictured) in 2011, claiming it was costing him a fortune to keep open
This would force the sale of the building to the local authority – Ryedale Council – which could then reopen it as a community pub with the villagers.
Mr Wilkinson has told the planners if the local farming families want a drink they can walk to The Royal Oak in the neighbouring village of Gillamoor.
But the planning meeting was told 95 per cent of the village refuse to sup in the ‘posh’ pub, which offers an a la carte menu for tourists.
Committee member Janet Frank said: ‘It is not the sort of local pub where you can wander in and have a pint and packet of crisps.
‘You have to book a table. We are in danger of creating dead villages. Commuter villages like they have in the rest of the country are not what we want in the park.’
Since the pub closed in 2011, the historically important building had been left as a windowless eyesore next to the village green.
The national park bosses agreed they should set a national example by ‘taking a stand’ against the destruction of the village local.
Member Alison Fisher said: ‘We have a building of considerable historical interest here and it appears we are being bullied by the owner.’
The members voted unanimously to defer the scheme pending an attempt to acquire the Plough Inn by compulsory purchase.
There will also be a fresh review into the feasibility of the community pub after hundreds of village locals were saved by similar schemes.
The residents have already formed an enterprise company and put forward a business plan, claiming the pub could make a profit of £42,000-a-year and become the village’s biggest employer with 20 staff.
Neighbour Patrick James said: ‘It’s my local pub where I had my first pint – we are not giving up.’
Campaigner Jerry McMahon warned the planners: ‘This is a case of a wealthy person trying to overrule the wishes of the community. Don’t underestimate the resentment the community will feel if he succeeds.’
Mr Wilkinson’s agent Patrick Barrett said he had tried to market the Plough Inn as a pub in 2011.
There had been no viable offers in 15 months and the one made by the community was ‘substantially lower’ than the £495,000 market value.
The Royal Oak and the Plough Inn were only 800m apart, he said, though the meeting was told they were separated by an unlit road which could be a hazard.