A former pub in rural Herefordshire can be turned into homes – over four years after the plan was first put forward.

Susan Rai of local firm Hillrow Homes applied to convert the Fir Tree Inn, Much Cowarne on the A4103 Hereford to Worcester Road, into five three-bedroom homes in early 2019. Her application was “part-retrospective” in that preparatory work had already begun.

The scheme was then held up, along with many others in the county, by a legal obligation on Herefordshire Council not to allow any increase in water pollution in the protected river Lugg catchment.


Despite this, “works proceeded without permission, and the conversion had reached an advanced stage by mid-2022”, according to a report by planning officer Adam Lewis – though these “have since largely paused following discussions with the council”.

The waste water issue is being resolved by the installation of a biological treatment plant, which will reduce phosphate output from the site to a lower level than previously – an approach which statutory body Natural England has now backed.


There were no outstanding objections from the council’s highways, drainage and ecology officers, nor from its public rights of way officer after an agreement to reroute a footpath around the site.

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No public objections were submitted, and Much Cowarne parish council was supportive.

An earlier application was made and approved, but not implemented, to convert the building into three houses in 2015, when it was last used as a pub. The loss of such a community asset had therefore already been consented.

Backing approval for the new scheme, Mr Lewis concluded it “would involve the sustainable reuse of a redundant rural building and would contribute to meeting rural housing needs”.