Anyway, a couple of years back, it was sold by Greene King to Admiral Taverns, one of the new breed of anonymous pub companies who give the impression of being more interested in short-term gain than long-term commitment to the licensed trade. In early 2005, Admiral closed the pub and put it up for sale through Christies, a well-known agency. The initial asking price of £325,000 was ridiculously high. It was subsequently reduced but serious questions have been asked about how much effort Christies actually made to sell the pub. Several prospective buyers were told that a sale was already going through so took their interest no further. None were subsequently contacted to say that the pub was back on the market. A cynical reaction would be that Admiral were going through the motions of the sales process so that they could claim to have tried to sell it as a going concern when they applied for planning permission to change the pub into a private house.

Sure enough, in May this year, such an application was submitted to South Cambridgeshire District Council. The property would attract a much higher price as a house than as a pub of course. CAMRA quickly slapped in an objection, pointing out that change of use would be against the Council's policies on retention of community provision.

In early June, the application was withdrawn by Admiral. However, the pub had been sold to a person who has apparently bought it with the intention of using it only as his house.

Under planning law, there is nothing to stop somebody doing this provided they don't occupy, for domestic purposes, the parts of the building formerly in pub use. The new owner could therefore live in the former licensee accommodation and then, after a little while, apply for planning permission to use the whole building as residential. By then the pub would have been closed for some years and his hope, no doubt, would be for the Council to give way.

CAMRA has written to the Council asking them to stand firm on this and not agree to any change of use, now or in the future. We've also asked them to keep a close eye on the property and take enforcement action if any attempt is made to use the pub part as living accommodation.

Meanwhile the villagers of West Wickham are understandably up in arms about these dealings which have led to the loss of their main community facility. Fortunately South Cambs Council has an excellent record on protecting pubs through the planning process, so far as they can. The White Horse isn't in the knacker's yard yet.