Villagers fight to save The George

editorial image

Residents in a village near Market Harborough are promising “an almighty fight” to save one of the area’s most attractive pubs from being turned into houses.

The George in Ashley, north-east of Market Harborough, is a handsome, grade II listed Northamptonshire stone building which has been a pub since 1745.

But the pub has been shut for 18 months, and now the new owner - local man Stephen Craik - has submitted a planning application to Kettering Borough Council to convert the building into two homes.

The news has shocked local people.

Stephen Castens, chairman of the Ashley Parish Council, said: “We’ve already received countless expressions of concern from Ashley residents, young and old.

“The parish council will be objecting to the application, and from the feedback, we expect the residents to add their weight in numbers – I can’t see anyone taking this without an almighty fight.”

Ashley resident David “Chaddy” Chadwick, who has lived in the village all his life, said: “The George is a focal point for me, my family and friends – truly a community pub.”

The village of Ashley has a population of under 250 and is not on a main road.

And real ale group CAMRA says British pubs are closing at the rate of 29 every week.

But villagers insist there is enough interest locally and from cyclists and walkers for The George to be a viable business.

The parish council has already designated the pub as an “asset of community value”, said villager Sosennah Every.

The designation makes a change of use more lengthy and difficult.

She said that villagers were also working on a possible business plan for The George.

And villager Ben Ramsden added one possibility was “villagers clubbing together to buy the pub”.

But a Heritage Assessment document presented to the council on behalf of Mr Craik supports redevelopment of the pub. The document concludes that a careful conversion could still “preserve the character and appearance of (Ashley’s) Conservation Area”.

The planning application could be discussed by Kettering Borough Council as early as January.