May 14, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

IT has lost its school and post office, and the thought of time being called on the pub has got people in Craig Cefn Parc fearing the worst for their community.

More than 100 people objected to plans by the owner of the Rock and Fountain Inn to change the use to residential.

The Swansea Valley pub has hosted wedding receptions, charity events and birthday parties over the years.

“To lose the pub would be another nail in the coffin of the village,” said resident Dr Sian Davies in an email to Swansea Council’s planning department.

A member of the pub darts team, Gareth Watson, said all age groups socialised there and that community spirit built up over the years would be lost.

“We will become basically a ghost town,” he said.

Villagers have alleged that the pub has not been kept up-to-date but a supporting statement on behalf of the landlord, Dewald Waso, said income had dwindled and that it wasn’t financially viable to keep it going.

The statement said Mr Waso had given up a £55,000-a-year job in 2015 to realise a long-term dream of owning and running a pub. He bought the Rock and Fountain, it said, for £235,000 and then spent a further £30,000-plus on repairs and upgrades.

The statement said the pub made a profit of just over £16,000 in the first year, but that it plummeted to £1,300 the following year and then went into the red.

It said Mr Waso ended up taking a different job while running the pub in the evenings and weekends for nothing.

The Rock and Fountain was put up for sale for £275,000 at the end of 2019, with the asking price reduced by £10,000 and then a further £5,000.

The supporting statement claimed that the pub could not, in planning terms, be considered an important community facility because it was not well supported.

Council planning officers have turned down the change of use application, noting that there were more than 100 objections. Rural pubs, said officers, were important in terms of the social fabric of a community.

But their decision report also said:

“However, despite being of value to the local community, this is potentially not reflected in the level patronage at the pub, which has seen sales reduce in recent years.

“It is noted from the financial figures submitted that the pub has not achieved a profit for several years. However, it is not entirely clear as to whether this is due to the lack of support from the community or the lack of experience of the landlord to run the establishment as the objectors would seem to imply.

“While a significant number of objections have been received to the loss of the pub, it is clear that even in the years preceding the (Covid) pandemic, the pub was making a loss, despite substantial investments to maintain and improve the facilities.”

Officers said sufficient evidence had been provided to demonstrate the pub was no longer viable, but they also said the marketing exercise was unsatisfactory because much of it had taken place during the pandemic when hospitality venues had to close or operate a restricted service.

They added it was likely that villagers would have to drive to The New Inn or The Masons Arms because of a lack of pavements.

Craigcefnparc Primary School was closed by the council in 2019, despite a campaign to keep it open. The village has a shop and a weekly mobile post office service.

Planning agent Robert Bowen, on behalf of Mr Waso, said his client was disappointed with the refusal and would appeal.

Mr Bowen said:

“My client understands there is a strong emotional attachment to any local facility, particularly a pub.

“What he feels and what the evidence shows is that the facility is only as important as its patronage.”