Rugby village pub thrust into spotlight amid Crooked House uproar
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The village only tends to get headlines when someone is compiling a list of placenames with rude connotations but as soon as a connection was made between it and events surrounding Himley’s legendary wonky pub, Willey was big news for a different reason.
The national press got involved because the Sarah Mansfield’s owner is Adam Taylor, husband of Carly Taylor, the recent new owner of the Crooked House.
While the situation over the latter remains under investigation by the Staffordshire authorities, Rugby Borough Council and the Sarah Mansfield’s recent planning history - the pub still stands but has been out of use for a number of years - was covered extensively by the likes of the Mail, the Sun, the Guardian and more.
They alighted on the fact that Willey residents had been outraged when they saw the interior of the building being ripped out before any planning applications had been considered – and that led to the issuing of a stop notice.
The council confirmed to the Advertiser a temporary stop notice was served on September 10, 2020 and ended on October 7, 2020 to stop works relating to the interior, not connected to the use of the premises as a public house.
This would not stop internal works not associated with change of use, as internal works do not need planning permission unless it is a listed building - the Sarah Mansfield is not.
The council decided to list it as an asset of community value in 2021 – a different layer of protection – but this was overturned on appeal.
There have been two applications for the pub – R22/0012 and R23/0032 on the borough council’s website.
The first involved creating six letting rooms on the upper floor, keeping the pub on the ground floor and two new homes in the car park.
This was refused by the council, the applicants appealed and the planning inspector ruled in Mr Taylor’s favour.
This meant by the time the second plan was considered – similar to the first except for being just one house in the car park – the council knew the outcome of the appeal and it was approved.
But a council spokesman said: “At no point have the local planning authority [RBC] granted permission to result in the loss of the pub in its entirety, nor for its demolition.”
The paper approached the three borough councillors whose ward includes Willey.
On their behalf, Cllr Tony Gillias (Con, Revel and Binley Woods) outlined how they had tracked the situation.
And he added: “All our individual rural communities are highly valued in the borough of Rugby, so it goes without saying that all ward councillors are greatly concerned with the potential loss of any rural community facility, as these form vital elements to their community wellbeing and sustainability.
“Both local residents and the RBC enforcement team are keeping close watch of the situation.”
The Advertiser invited Lance Wiggins, the planning agent acting on behalf of Mr Taylor over the Sarah Mansfield, for an update on their next steps for the building but no response was received by the time of going to press.