A PACKED meeting held last night heard that a historic pub in the heart of Downton is no longer viable.

Downton Parish Council’s planning committee was considering applications by Carolyn Sutcliffe to change The King’s Arms in High Street into two three-bedroom homes.

The meeting, in the children’s room of Downton Library, heard both sides of the argument about a pub which has been offering hospitality for at least 300 years.

Laura Mountford, from Church Hatch, which is near the pub, said she was speaking on behalf of neighbours and alluded to problems with rowdiness.

She said: “We recently moved and felt a huge sigh of relief that it is no longer a pub.” She said it is a fantastic building which should be protected.

Mike Sutcliffe, brother-in-law of Carolyn Sutcliffe, said: “Times change and enterprises have to react to this.” He said the previous owner, Enterprise Inns, had offloaded the pub because they knew it was not viable in a village with three other pubs.

Simon Crawford, on behalf of the The King’s Arms Supporters group, said turning the pub into homes would mean the loss of a significant village amenity. The village has already lost a newspaper shop, a sorting office and a general stores and it should not lose another business.

He said the plans do not comply with planning law and the pub’s problems have been down to poor management rather than the pub itself.

He said: “Downton already has three pubs but each has a very distinct profile and a fourth public house will contribute towards the diversity and prosperity of the community area.”

Parish Councillor Julia Whitmarsh said the pub had been a vibrant part of the community for many decades, although the jobs of its working class patrons from times past had all disappeared.

But she added: “If there’s the slightest possibility of someone coming in with money to get it going again, I would be in favour of that.”

Other parish councillors said the reality was that the pub was not viable and the proposals would preserve the building, including the distinctive sign-writing on the exterior.

The plans, which include demolition or rear extensions and building of new ones, were approved, with Cllr Whitmarsh the only member to vote against them. A public consultation ends on March 6, with a decision by Wiltshire Council due by March 27.