A historic country pub in Resolven that has been serving locals since 1780 might be turned into a five-bed house.
The Farmers Arms, in Glynneath Road, closed in May 2019, leaving the area without a pub and putting “another nail in the coffin of the Resolven community,” according to one of its regulars, Richard Hopkins.
The new owners submitted plans to the local authority to convert it into a dwelling after buying the building for £160,000.
The plans were turned down by Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee, by a vote of five to four, because they decided the pub was an “important community facility”.
Its conversion into a home could only be approved if the pub was found to be “surplus to requirements or no longer viable”.
An appeal has now been lodged by the new owner, arguing there are a range of facilities “better located” in the heart of the village that will continue to provide the services of the Farmers Arms.
The only other pub in Resolven, the Vaughan Arms, closed recently and there are now no other pubs in the village.
Paul Warren, who has started a change.org petition to save the Farmers Arms, which he has visited every week for the last 13 years, said: “There are just no pubs now in Resolven. The Farmers Arms was a proper country pub, it wouldn’t look out of place in the Home Counties or the Cotswolds.
“We don’t want to see it go. There was never any trouble there, it was a place for friends to meet and have a drink.”
Mr Warren is the captain of the Farmers Arms darts team which has now moved to Resolven Miners Welfare after losing the venue they played in every Friday.
He dismisses the claim, made in the appeal, that refurbishment of the existing premises to reopen it as a pub would cost £86,000, saying “you could move in and start using it straight away”.
Many of the regulars echo Mr Warren’s concerns, including Trefor Jones, 62, a widower who lives just down the road from the pub.
“I went there to socialise for over 30 years and I’ve seen three different owners come and go in that time.
“I always found it to be an extremely welcoming place. The idea that the place was dead just isn’t true.
“The previous owners cut their opening hours so much they put people off going there, it closed early even when the place was full,” he said.
Several people who used to go to the pub said that since it was bought by the previous owners in 2011, its opening times had gradually been shortened, from every day of the week to just three and half days by this year.
The appeal documents state, on behalf of the new owner: “While there has been a significant amount of representation from the community over the importance and loss of the pub it is clear from the accounts that the pub has not been well supported by the local community with takings over the last three years of approximately £1,500 a week.”
Mr Jones continued: “I got to know my neighbours by going to the local pub, if a young family bought my house now they couldn’t do that.
“The Farmers was a throwback to how pubs used to be. It was always very welcoming and I didn’t see any violence or even a fight there in 30 years.”
Others spoke of the community spirit at the Farmers Arms too.
“I was a regular there since the 1980s. It was the first pub I went to when I was 18 years old and the sort of place where people of all ages drank together,” said Stuart Davies, 49, from Abergarwed.
Richard Hopkins, 54, who lives next to the pub and went there regularly for 17 years, said: “I’ve seen many people pass through its doors and made friends with some of them.
“We’ve all lost friends from here, and we’ve all gained some new ones too; some have passed away, some have moved on, some are still here, but now the pub is shut there’s an unwelcome dislocation in our little community, especially as there are no other pubs in the village now.
“What the current owners don’t realise is that although the property may be owned by them, they really are just caretakers of this small part of the local culture and history.”
This week supporters of the campaign to save the Farmers Arms met at Resolven Miners Welfare where they were supported by Resolven Councillor, Dean Lewis.
“The Farmers, to myself and to my family and friends, was a place you could go to escape locally for a drink and a meal.
“We need places like the Farmers so we can put away our devices, sit down and actually have a connection with each other, have a hug when we meet old friends. Not only was it a place to meet old friends but a place you could easily make new ones.
“It was a place you could take your time in and watch the world go by, or take your dog in after a long walk up the canal or mountain.
“It was all that to me once and I’m sure that with the right people given the opportunity to take up the reigns they could make the Farmers the successful and vibrant place it once was.”
The appeal to the decision is due to be looked at by a planning inspector, appointed by Welsh Government.
Members of the public have until November 18 to submit any comments on the appeal.
For more details or to comment, visit acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk and type in reference number 3238694.