Licensee is barred from own lounge

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The Independent Online
SELWYN FAIRLAMB became the first pubowner to find himself turfed out of his own lounge and beer garden yesterday. Strictly speaking, his little plot, at the back of the 200-year-old Fox and Hounds pub in the village of Whitley Chapel, Northumberland, is not a beer garden at all. That is because he has shut the pub after a series of disputes with regulars in the 10 years he ran the pub and turned it into his own home-from-home.

It has not exactly made him Mr Popularity with local Tynedale councillors, who were unhappy to lose the drinking-hole, affectionately known as the Click 'Em Inn.

And since he didn't seek planning permission for the changes he made after shutting the pub four years ago, the council has now forbidden him from living in the converted parts - including his own lounge and garden.

With the pub closed, 49-year-old Mr Fairlamb, who works as a chartered surveyor, decided the eight-metre square bar area would make the perfect domestic lounge.

But the ruling forbids him from changing its use and moving in his furniture. "He can't sit in the lounge watching TV because that would be an infringement," said Tynedale's head of development control Jack Chown. "We will also prevent him from using the former beer garden as a domestic garden." Mr Fairlamb has been given a year to move out of the rooms that used to be the pub and told he could be taken to court if he does not comply.

"Scattered rural communities such as Hexhamshire are losing their facilities all the time," said parish council chairman David Trotter. "We lost the post office here last year, we lost the village shop many years ago and there's often talk that we could lose our resident vicar. We've also lost the pub, of course, but we maintain hope of getting it back. The only centres of this parish are the school and the village hall and it would be nice to have the pub back too."

Mr Fairlamb would not talk about his difficulties, yesterday, but his planning agent described the situation as ludicrous. When the pub's closure prompted a 339-name petition in the village he claimed lack of support made the business unviable.