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Gloucestershire Business News

EXCLUSIVE: More room at the inn, please!

Strong demand for accommodation at an historic Gloucestershire pub has prompted the business to seek expansion of its facilities into a neighbouring barn.

The Red Lion pub in Huntley, which is seen as a gateway tourism stop to the Forest of Dean and which has trading records as a pub and hotel dating back to the 1600s, is asking Forest of Dean planners for permission on a barn conversion to provide staff accommodation which would thereby allow the six-bedroomed pub to increase its letting capacity.

The request comes in the wake of research that pubs with rooms trump AirBnB options in the short-break market – and that 41% of UK pub operators were planning to add rooms in their retail offer in the next 12 months.

The Red Lion, set in 0.84 acres of grounds, was bought for £345,000 in March 2021 by Gloucestershire businessman Gerard Nicholas, the name behind the county's multiple award-winning KFC franchise chain. In April, it emerged successfully from a retrospective planning issue over minor upgrades to outside play areas, including a memorial silhouette of a WW1 soldier.

Dursley-based Elevation One Building Design Ltd told Forest of Dean District Council in a Design and Access statement that the recent acquisition of the pub had identified a growth opportunity.

The report said: "The existing public house consist of bars, function room, restaurant and commercial kitchen. On the first floor there are letting bedrooms and rooms used for the managers/tenants accommodation.

"Recently the rooms have become very popular for lettings to visitors of the area and the owners have decided that they would like to convert the barn to managers/tenants living accommodation and utilise all of the first floor of the public house for letting bedrooms."

The stone barn has 450mm thick walls, the bid said, and a traditional, plain-tiled, pitched roof: "There is a ground floor and first floor within the two- storey section of the barn and a single storey extension to the [left-hand side] end. The barn at present is used for general storage of materials, wood and associate paraphernalia associate with the public house."

Planners have been told that the plan would also see the introduction of a small shed to act as a bat roost as a biodiversity offset to the proposals.

Despite the economic challenges pubs face, given increased wage bills, food and energy costs, as well as high interest rates, recent research from the website Hotel Owner suggests that pubs offering rooms were seeing good demand in 2023.

The website said: "Nearly 60% of consumers stated they would prefer to stay in a pub with rooms over other types of lodging for the same price and location, according to data from CGA Strategy and Stay in a Pub."

CGA's findings also suggested that 41% of pub operators are planning to add hotel rooms to their businesses in the next 12 months. Shepherd Neame, the Kent-based brewery laying claim to be the oldest in Britain, has also said that the preference trend had been evident since it converted some of its pubs into pubs for B&B.

● The Red Lion is likely to have been named in accordance with a royal order made by King James I and VI of Scotland. When he came to the throne in 1603, King James ordered that the heraldic red lion of Scotland be shown on all important buildings. It is now said to be the most popular pub name in Britain, with around 600 believed to exist nationally at the latest count.

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