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VICTORY

In February 2018, Mandy met with Rick and Bill and discussed in detail her plans for the pub and the frustration both her and Kevin feel in the delays in gaining approval for her refurbishment plans from CDC.  She accepts that as a Grade II listed building, controls need to be in place, but she also wants to see a pragmatic approach from CDC to allow the experience that the White Lion can provide its future customers to be brought into the 21st century. The condition of the building was far worse than Mandy ever imagined, but they have made it watertight and improved the insulation. They have upgraded to living area on the 1st floor and hope to start work on the ground floor shortly. At this stage we can't predict when its doors will be open, but with the sad demise of the Full Moon, we can only hope that any further delays are avoided.

On 24th March 2017, we heard the news we've all been waiting for - the White Lion has been sold to a local couple who want to reopen it as Free House. On the 22nd June 2017, Mandy and Kevin moved into the White Lion to start their work on refurbishing the building to create their home and a fully functioning pub. Obviously they will have to fully assess the condition of the building and then undertake the work necessary to bring the White Lion back to life. As soon as we hear any timescales for a reopening, we will certainly let you know and hopefully the community can join in the party!

We are delighted with this news, as it means the campaign we have fought to save the pub from being developed into a private house has been victorious. We've not just fought for the community living here today, but for all the future generations who will be privileged to call the Hilltop Villages home.  The village pub is at the heart of a community, along with the church, village hall and community groups - that is what makes us a community, not simply a commuter dormitory.

Clearly there will be much work needed to bring the White Lion back to life and hopefully the new owners have a business plan and the investment to make this happen. However, some words of warning, without customers, the pub will not survive, so it is partly down to the community to help make it a success. Yes, the White Lion has to once again be a warm and welcoming pub to all and have a good selection of drinks and food, but we need to visit regularly and bring our friends and families along too.

Some Recent History

In December 2016, the White Lion was put up for sale by the owners, who clearly had decided that they had spent enough money and time on their fruitless and speculative venture.  The pub had clearly deteriorated during their ownership, but they still were asking a premium on what they paid Punch back in 2014 and don't forget, they paid over the odds back then too. However we are now on the road to seeing the White Lion reopen, as we can't envisage anyone buying the pub and trying again to obtain a change of use.

In May 2016, an Appeal by the owners of the White Lion was heard at a Public Inquiry in Amersham Council Offices by the Planning Inspectorate. This 5 day event saw the owners and their QC, who represented them, try to prove that the pub was not financially viable and manipulate the planning rules to permit the pub to be converted into a private dwelling.  Of course, this speculative property development would deprive the community and its many visitors of a valuable asset and quite likely generate vast profits for the owners. We had a short video made of the White Lion and the last successful landlord, Gary Heap, and if you wish to view this video on You Tube, please click here. This Appeal was firmly rejected on 6th October 2016 and the Enforcement Notice issued by Chiltern District Council was upheld, giving the owners 12 months to comply with the planning regulations associated with the White Lion as a public house.

We'd like to offer some heartfelt thank yous to several pubs and organisations who made a major impact at the Public Inquiry:

In addition, we can't thank our supporters enough, both from the local community and those who gave evidence to the Public Inquiry, for writing and attending the various meetings that have taken place - a magnificent effort. At the end of April 2015, the Chiltern Planning Committee firmly rejected the application to convert the White Lion into a private dwelling, with a vote of 11:1 against the application.  Over 60 people from the local community turned up to the meeting to demonstrate their support for the pub and this clearly made a huge impact on the committee members.  The full details of this rejection can be seen online at the CDC Planning Portal.  The Save the White Lion team had hoped that this major setback would have persuaded that owners to reopen negotiations to sell the pub back to the community.  We remain ready and willing to buy the pub, but at a fair price that reflects the value as a country pub and not a speculative property development.

During November 2014, there was a tremendous response from the community with 159 letters and emails sent to the Chiltern District Council (CDC) planning office, objecting to the change of use to a private house.  The Council have told us that this was “most unusual” and a “terrific effort” for this type of planning application, so many thanks to all of you who sent a letter.  We noticed letters from CAMRA and the Chiltern Society also objecting and raising some very important points regarding the future of local pubs in the area.

CDC commissioned an independent financial viability report on the White Lion, as this was the main argument in the planning application for consent to permit a change of use.  This report was published by CDC in January 2015 and the good news is that it confirms that the pub, as a Free House, can certainly be viable, if run well by a committed publican and with the support of the community.  While commenting that our Revival Plan, which we published in June 2014, may have been slightly over optimistic with regard to sales (only by 10% however), it broadly supported our business plan and the way in which we envisaged community ownership of the pub.  If you would like a copy of the White Lion Revival Plan, please email savethewhitelion@gmail.com and we will be delighted to send a copy to you.

If you have not signed up yet too support your pub, then please do and you will be the first to hear of our progress.

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