A HISTORIC pub with a memorial to a little girl in its garden could be used for a development.

A planning application filed by Punch Taverns could see the spacious garden at the beloved Ben Jonson pub in Weston-on-the-Green, near Bicester, used for a four-bedroom bungalow.

The controversial proposal would see the garden area, where families sit and children play, cut off from the pub that has been on the site since 1739.

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Explaining why the plan would have a negative impact on the pub, the chair of Weston-on-the-Green Parish Council Diane Bohm said: "This will be catastrophic for the new pub tenants who have worked so hard this past year to upgrade both the interior and the exterior of the pub."

Ms Bohm also pointed out that the Ben Johnson relied on its large garden to allow diners to socially distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

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She added: "Covid-19 has hit pubs in a very hard way and so many of them are just now getting back on their feet.

"That is also the case with the Ben Jonson.

"They rely on the garden so diners can socially distance."

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The plan particularly prompted concern because the pub garden has a memorial playground to nine-year-old Harriet Forster, from Weston, who was killed by a rockfall on holiday in Yorkshire in 2018.

Ms Bohm commented: "The garden is lovely and within it is a children's playground dedicated to the young Harriet who was killed by falling rock."

Harriet was pronounced dead at the scene on the beach near Whitby after she had been out for a walk with her mum.

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After her family crowdfunded £3,000 on the JustGiving website they built a memorial at the Ben Jonson's garden last year where she often went with her uncle.

Another Weston-on-the-Green resident Mark East also strongly objected to the planning application, citing the memorial as a reason.

Mr East, who lives nearby, added: "The pub car park is currently too small and cars park on the grass verges and on Westlands Avenue.

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"The development of this property will worsen the impact and cars will be abandoned in dangerous locations.

"In addition, the traffic survey was carried out during the lockdown, so the result was completely pointless as it is by no means a true reflection on the amount of daily traffic that uses the avenue."

Mr East also highlighted that the Ben Jonson was a listed building and said the proposed bungalow would stand out from its surroundings.

However, opposition from parishioners might not be the only reason Punch Pubs' plans could be stopped.

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Archaeologist Clare King, who reviewed the proposal, highlighted that there were possibly remains 'associated with the medieval and post-medieval periods' on the site.

Managing director of Punch Andy Spencer commented: "The Ben Johnson is a fantastic pub and remains an important part of the Punch portfolio.

"We have recently applied for planning permission to develop part of the land to the rear of the pub to allow a single house to be built.

"Our plans provide sufficient parking for the pub and a beer garden for guests to enjoy.

"The play equipment may be relocated however a dedicated memorial for Harriet will remain at the pub."