Plea to turn fire-damaged Lancashire village pub into a community hub

Locals battling to save a derelict pub on the outskirts of Preston are calling on its owners to help convert it into a community facility for their village.

The Boar’s Head in Barton shut its doors in 2016 and has since been the subject of multiple bids to bulldoze it for housing. Last summer, the Garstang Road venue was also badly damaged by a fire that was started deliberately.

Mark Warren and Rosemary McLean are amongst the Barton residents unwilling to call time on their former local

Mark Warren and Rosemary McLean are amongst the Barton residents unwilling to call time on their former local

READ MORE >>> Dramatic pictures show battle to contain blaze at the Boar's Head on Barton

But that hasn’t deterred the Barton Heritage Group (BHG) which wants to see the 200-year-old building rise from the ashes - and reopen as more than just a pub.

Its members are now making a direct appeal to the site’s owners to abandon their housing plans - and instead create a hub for a community which they say is bereft of amenities.

“We’d like the company to join with us and produce something of value,” said villager Mark Warren.

The burned out extension to the Boar's Head, following a fire in July 2019

The burned out extension to the Boar's Head, following a fire in July 2019

“We don’t need extra houses - Barton is awash with them - but what is required is something in the village centre,” he added, suggesting the idea of a combined shop, post office and drop-in health facilities - as well as a bar and eatery.

Fellow resident Rosemary McLean said that she would “never lose faith” in seeing the building restored - claiming that the original section is still solid even after last year's fire.

“There is nowhere here to meet or to shop for basic staples - a community hub would definitely be well used,” Rosemary predicted.

She said that the group has previously made offers in the region of £400,000 to buy the plot, based on an independent valuation of the land - but claims that owners Barton NWL Properties are demanding £950,000, reflecting the value of the land should planning permission be secured for housing.

However, the firm says that it “hasn’t heard” from the BHG for over two years.

A spokesperson said: “There is every indication that the group have no intention or ability to raise sufficient funds to make an acceptable offer. It is commercially impossible to raise sufficient funds to operate the site as a pub because the site is unviable as a pub - as evidenced by its historic failures.

“The stark options are that the site remains an eyesore or is developed as the company intended into smart housing to improve the area and meet a local and national need.”

The landowner has submitted several proposals to flatten the former hostelry, but these have been withdrawn after Preston City Council planners raised concerns that the future use of the land was not specified Now, the firm is seeking “permission in principle” for eight dwellings on the pub car park, leaving a question mark over the future of the building itself.

In a statement, Barton NWL Properties said that previous pre-application discussions with Preston City Council had been on the basis of 11 houses - with the pub as a “converted dwelling”. The company did not confirm whether that conversion remained part of its latest plans which were lodged before Christmas.

The pub was designated an “asset of community value” by Preston City Council in 2017 - which put a temporary halt on its sale or development to allow the community time to find the funds to take it on. But that status was lifted just over 12 months ago.

The fire which broke out in the building on 18th July last year caused extensive damage and closed the busy A6 road for 15 hours.