“I STRONGLY believe it can survive” — that’s the view of the Ascot resident behind the campaign to save the Royal Hunt Pub from demolition.

The drinking establishment has been closed since for a number of years after long legal and planning battles involving developers, Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) and residents.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the history of the pub, the housing plans for the site and the hopes for the future.

The history

The Ascot institution, based on New Road, has been claimed to have been a popular drinking establishment for royal huntsmen when Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711.

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Fast forward a few centuries and different landlords and landladies later to 2014, when the pub is purchased by Hawthorn Leisure.

The group paid around £200,000 for the site as part of a package of properties this year.

In 2015, Hawthorn Leisure closed the pub.

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Shortly after the pub was designated as an asset of community value, meaning it was subject to additional planning protection.

Patrick Ruddy Homes (PRH) bought the site for £800,000 in 2017 - four times more than what Hawthorn Leisure paid for it.

The plans

Patrick Ruddy Homes (PRH) set about outlining its plans for the site soon after purchasing the property, asking the council to approve proposals for them to build nine flats and demolish the Royal Hunt.

Bracknell News:

After a huge opposition campaign in which councillors and residents teamed up to object to the plans, the council refused the original application in March 2018.

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PRH came back with a second application in December 2018 but it was refused again, both by BFC and by central planning examiners after inspectors said building the flats would mean knocking down an “important” protected tree.

Bracknell News:

A third planning application has now been submitted to BFC — and this time developers are optimistic about their changes after making changes to the designs which they say will not harm the oak tree.

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Despite this, Winkfield Parish Council (WPC) recommended refusal of the proposals last week after outlining concerns about too few parking spaces among other fears.

The future?

The Royal Hunt Pub Community Group (RHPCG) hopes to purchase the site if the owners ever decide to sell the land, with more than £240,000 pledged from 131 local members so far.

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Bruce Singleton, founder of the RHPCG, told the News how this could become a reality.

He said: “My aim is that those people who have shown an interest in supporting it as a community-run pub, get their wish.

Bracknell News:

“The way that we achieve that is to get an asset of community value (ACV) nomination put back on that pub.

“The idea is to get the ACV put back on the pub, and then talk to the owner, who will then be in a much more pliable position to negotiate a much more reasonable price for the pub.

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“We need three conditions to be met:

1 - there is an ACV on the pub;

2 - the owner is prepared to issue a disposal notice to Bracknell Forest Council;

3 - the original ACV nominator is informed that it’s now available.

“At that point, we can go in, make a bid as a community group and we can buy the pub - that’s the ultimate goal.

Bracknell News:

“If it’s run as a pub restaurant, I think it has a very strong chance of survival because it would be an oasis in an otherwise desert between the Royal Forresters a mile-and-a-quarter away in one direction, and The Hatchet almost a mile-and-a-half away in the other direction.

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“It would mean a lot of local people could walk to a local establishment, they could have a meal, have their wine, they can drink their beer, or they can just go along for a drink.

“I strongly believe it can survive.”