A MULTI-millionaire internet pioneer looks set to win a long-running battle with villagers over his plan to permanently close a historic pub, despite it having been recognised as an asset of community value.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee has been warned by planning officers it would be difficult to justify rejecting the latest proposals for the 238-year-old Plough Inn, at Fadmoor, which is owned by Peter Wilkinson, who has a reported £390m fortune.

Since Mr Wilkinson closed the pub in 2011 citing a lack of trade, he has faced local opposition to schemes to find new uses for the building, including the proposal to convert and extend the premises and outbuildings to create two local occupancy homes and four holiday lets being considered tomorrow (Thursday).

Mr Wilkinson has repeatedly stressed the inn was a loss-making venture. But a group of local residents insist the pub could be turned into a thriving community-run venture.

Documents submitted by campaigners opposing the latest plans state that nine years ago the Plough Inn had a waiting list of up to six months for evening dining.

They also highlight that the inn was re-registered as an asset of community value by Ryedale District Council last year “after rigorous appraisal of the community’s plans which were supported by the authority”, some six years after it was first recognised for the status.

One letter of objection states: “The Plough has deliberately and provocatively been left in a disgraceful condition: boarded up and with unsightly security fencing purposely intended to detract from the visual amenity of the village; it is an unsubtle attempt to influence the planning decision in favour of the applicant by the creation of an eyesore.”

However, Margaret Smyth, manager of the Royal Oak in nearby Gillamoor, which is also owned by Mr Wilkinson, said it was very unlikely the two villages could support two pubs, and the holiday let and local occupancy homes plan would bring jobs and housing to the local economy.

In their report to this week’s meeting, planning officers said the pub’s closure of the pub may have affected other businesses in the village, but the proposal would provide much-needed local occupancy housing and contribute to the local economy through the holiday lets.

The report states: “Whilst officers fully understand the views of many residents at the passing of a well-loved and remembered local pub, the reality is that the village has not had the benefit of the Plough Inn for nearly a decade.

“There is an alternative facility within walking distance and in many villages where the nearest public house is a car journey away, community efforts have focused on providing a new pub facility in a building that is available for such a use.

“It is surprising that in view of the strength of feeling in this instance such a venture has not been pursued.

"The Plough Inn as it used to be cannot be brought back by a planning decision but is reliant on the owner’s intent.

"It is clear in this case that there is no wish to do so.”

The report concludes with “strong advice” from officers that “a refusal of this application would be difficult to justify” as it would bring some community benefit and see the premises improved.