ANOTHER Farnham pub is threatened with permanent closure, after an application was submitted to convert The Waverley Arms into a children’s nursery.
The Waverley Arms, built opposite Farnham station in 1931, has a special place in Farnham’s history, being one of the last projects by iconic town architects Harold Falkner and Guy Maxwell Aylwin.
But after a succession of six landlords in 10 years, the pub pulled its last pint earlier this year and has since been sold by Enterprise Inns to Perfect Start Children’s Day Nursery And Pre-School.
The High Wycombe-based nursery provider has since applied to Waverley Borough Council to change The Waverley Arms’ legal use from a public house (use class A4) to a children’’s day nursery (use class D1), together with a two-storey rear extension and a new 15 space car park accessed from Waverley Lane.
It is proposed the nursery would offer full-time care for up to 80 children between the ages of six weeks and five years old, overseen by up to 14 staff from 7.30am to 7.30pm Mondays to Fridays.
Perfect Start’s planning statement expresses a “clear need” for additional day nursery provision in the area, and questions the long-term viability of the pub despite its listing as a ‘building of local merit’.
It states: “It is clear that a pub has not operated viably at the site for many years given the regular change in landlord and the number of occasions the pub has closed in recent years.
“Furthermore within easy walking distance there are many other similar facilities. Given this it is considered that the proposed change of use is entirely appropriate and indeed should be encouraged.”
This view is supported by a letter from commercial property agents New Ballerino, confirming the pub was put on the market in May 2016 but has received “no interest” for a continuation of its existing use.
However, the application has been criticised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which has called on the new owners to provide “hard evidence” that the pub is no longer viable.
Kevin Travers, pubs officer for the CAMRA Surrey and Hants Borders branch, said: “If they are so convinced that it isn’t viable I would expect them to be able to demonstrate this far clearer than they appear to have been able to do. There has been no formal assessment of the viability of the business.
“It is fair to say that prior to its latest closure The Waverley Arms has had a chequered history, but it was also very clear that when properly run it was a successful local community pub and in the right hands, with a reasonable rating assessment and ability to operate outside the constraints imposed by a pub company it could be again.
“New ownership could inject further enthusiasm and take the pub to the next level. The pub has a great community feel and, as a result, many other activities both in and outside the pub, could be developed.”
Mr Travers added CAMRA has also asked the borough council to “urgently” introduce a formal pub protection policy as part of the Local Plan process - requiring would-be developers to clearly demonstrate a pub is unviable before allowing its change of use.
Neighbour Mark Stacey has also objected to the application, mourning the loss of his local pub and questioning the wisdom of providing a children’s nursery at one of Farnham’s worst pollution hotspots.
He said: “When I was a kid in the 1960s and 70s The Waverley Arms was one of the busiest pubs in Farnham, where the bowler hat parade - my dad included - would spend a few hours before going home to their wives.
“It’s a very quiet pub now in comparison but it would still be a great shame to close it, and I can’t see the logic of putting 80 little children in one of the most polluted areas of Farnham.”
Members of the public have until Friday, June 16, to comment on Perfect Start’s application, which can be viewed online at www.waverley.gov.uk/planning by searching for reference WA/201/0823.