An arts venue in the historic heart of a Herefordshire town has seen off moves to stop it hosting drinking and live music.

The 17th-century St Katherine’s Barn, marketed simply as The Barn, lies within Ledbury’s conservation area next to the St Katherine’s Hall and the Master’s House.

In 2018, Robin Oakey and Lynn Jones “turned it from a wreck into a bright and vibrant creative space” hosting regular exhibitions and events, their website explains.


But in September last year, Herefordshire Council issued them with an enforcement notice requiring them to stop using it as a bar and music venue, saying it only had permission to operate as a gallery and café.

“The use of the building for these additional purposes is causing significant harm to the amenity of nearby residents through excess noise,” the notice said.

Hereford Times: The Barn, Ledbury, following its conversionThe Barn, Ledbury, following its conversion (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Oakey and Ms Jones appealed against this, contending that while alcohol is indeed sold and live music played at the venue, this did not amount to a material change of use.

Planning inspector H Davies has now backed their claim, concluding that the limited scale and frequency of these other uses of The Barn “can be considered incidental to the primary uses, rather than as separate and additional primary uses, [which] have not changed”.


Following complaints “primarily from one nearby resident”, a statutory noise nuisance notice had been served on the venue in October 2019, the inspector noted.

However, lying next to the Feathers Hotel with its beer garden, “the general level of noise and activity which residents will experience in this area is quite different to a primarily residential area”, they added.

The inspector concluded that the claims which formed the basis of the council’s enforcement notice “do not constitute a breach of planning control” and were therefore invalid.

Ms Jones said the pending enforcement, combined with landscaping work to create a new town square immediately in front of The Barn, has meant this year “has been a struggle”, though it has continued to host “low-key, spontaneous” afternoon music events.

She thanked those who submitted over 20 letters of support to the planning inspector’s inquiry.