Dispute over pub closure heads to court

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A bitter court battle over the future of a pub is causing outrage in a community.Licensee Jim Sharp (pictured) closed the Red Hart in Llanvapley,...

A bitter court battle over the future of a pub is causing outrage in a community.

Licensee Jim Sharp (pictured)​ closed the Red Hart in Llanvapley, Monmouthshire, in October 2002, claiming lack of business was making it impossible to earn a living.

He applied for planning permission to convert the building into housing but his actions sparked a furious response from locals who claimed the pub was vital to the community.

Those who wanted to save it set up the Red Hart Supporters Club, attracting 600 members to the cause, and 180 letters of objection prompted Monmouthshire County Council to reject the plans.

In response Mr Sharp appealed and the case went to a public inquiry earlier this month. The objectors funded a top solicitor and are now confident that they will win when the decision is announced on November 1.

Mr Sharp claims he has become the victim of a hate campaign, racist remarks and vicious posters around the town.

"I've been at the pub for ten years and we have had our successes but people have stopped coming," said Mr Sharp. "At one time we were listed in all the top pub guide books but the lack of interest from the local people has meant I can no longer keep it going.

"I've tried to make it viable but can't keep ploughing money into it and in the mean time I've been told to get back to my native Ireland, which is unacceptable."

But objectors have claimed they stopped using the pub because Mr Sharp was rude and did not create an inviting environment.

Geoff Burrow, chairman of the Red Hart Supporters Group, wants the pub to stay and has even set up a website to generate support (www.savetheredhart.co.uk). "It's an integral part of the community," he said. "The licensee has run it into the ground and we are confident he's done that because he can make more money out of the property. We have had no part in racist remarks and don't condone it but people are angry."

John Longden, head of Pub is the Hub - which is campaigning to keep rural pubs open - said: "We have offered the group guidance. This is use it or lose it time for rural pubs and we need local authorities to think more on how they can protect the last pub in the village."

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