VILLAGERS have united to show their continued support for a pub which is facing redevelopment.
Newnham locals have been protesting for months at the proposed plans for The Old House at Home pub which has been shut since January last year.
Plans to change the pub into residential units have caused outrage among the local community with over 1,200 signatures collected on a petition and 82 objections submitted to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council outlining opposition towards the new owner’s plans.
Residents are particularly fearful that the loss of their pub for good would leave the village floundering, with other vital amenities also shut in previous years.
However, the latest protest on August 6, also had some extra weight thrown behind it, as the BBC came along to film for a new documentary.
After hearing of the petition, a BBC crew came along, led by artist Bob and Roberta Smith, also known as Patrick Brill, where they captured shots of villagers marching around the adjacent green with placards and banners in support of the pub.
The locals also set up their own pub outside to signify how vital it is for the community, with refreshments supplied by Andwell’s Brewing Company.
The documentary which will air on BBC4 in October focuses on the power of people in protest, and it is hoped that there will be a happy ending for campaigners to go alongside the segment shot over the weekend.
At the end of May new owners of the vacant building, Red Oak Tavern’s, applied to Basingstoke and Deane Borough council to change the building’s use to residential.
The aim of the petition and protests is to persuade the borough council to refuse permission, after which the Newnham Parish Council will look to purchase the pub via a public works loan and re-open it to the community, offering fine food, beers and wine.
Parish council chairman June James said: “We had a fantastic turnout of local people.
“Bob and Roberta interviewed some of us and then gave out placards he had made for us.
“A European Marching Band, from Nice called Les Zoings, accompanied us and we marched around the village green, finishing outside the pub.”
There was also an image that encapsulated how the locals and parish council feel about the cause, and that was when protesters climbed a ladder and changed the lettering on the pub sign.
Where the building has sat vacant for over 18 months, some lettering has fallen away which gave residents the perfect opportunity to change the wording to ‘The Old House is our Home”.
June James continued: “We are doing lots of research and visiting other community run pubs to see how it is done.
“We are under no illusions that it will be an easy task to take on, and we need to make it more than a pub.
“CAMRA have told us that we need more than than that, we’d need coffees and books etc, we were told, ‘pub is the hub’”.
The petition which says “we know that the pub has been successful in the past and can be again”, also gained interest from national campaign group CAMRA.
Speaking to The Herald earlier this year, chairman for the North Hampshire branch Mike Hodson, said: “Community pubs such as the Old House at Home in Newnham are an essential part of the social fabric of a village, where people can meet, socialise, organise events, arrange sports teams, and enjoy their leisure time.
“In addition, they provide much-needed employment opportunities and stimulate the local economy through food suppliers and local breweries.
“Far too many pubs are closing these days due to a local planning system that seems to be more geared to property development than the needs of a local community.”
The campaign group launched a new initiative earlier this summer to protect 3,000 pubs from demolition or conversion to other uses, following the release of new statistics which show 21 pubs are being lost across the UK a week.
At that rate of closure, it would mean for the year of 2016, almost 1,100 pubs will have been lost across the country.
And Newnham locals are fighting ferociously to make sure their pub is not consigned to the history books, but reincarnated as a thriving community run pub.
The planning decision is due to be determined in early October.