THE closure of the Halfway House pub in Box is 'unjustified' according to planning officers at Stroud District Council.

Owners Novalis Trust, which also run the Cotswold Chine School, closed the pub in July because it 'was no longer viable'.

It prompted hundreds to take part in protests and sign an online petition but the business reopened as a cafe in January to provide work experience opportunities for children at the school.

SDC has now issued an enforcement notice because a change of use was made without planning permission.

The council states that the loss of the pub is 'unjustified' and have accused Novalis Trust of disenfranchising the local community who could have made their views known through the planning application process.

Phil Skill, head of planning for SDC, said: "Novalis Trust has made numerous planning applications for its various properties and are well aware of the need to apply for permission before they carry out work.

"Unfortunately, in recent months, they appear to have chosen to work outside these rules.

"I am particularly disappointed that the trust is so intransigent in its views on the building's future use."

Campaigners have welcomed the enforcement notice and say they will continue to fight for the pub to be reopened.

Novalis Trust purchased the pub 11 years ago after special permission was granted by the Charity Commission because of its close proximity to the school, but as a charity, the trust was not allowed to run the business and had to appoint a tenant.

The previous landlord Niall McInerney had been keen to buy the freehold but was unsuccessful.

Jake Lukas, chief executive of Novalis Trust, said: "It is a matter of considerable disappointment that SDC issued an enforcement notice without any attempt to contact the trust and seek its views.

"Had this happened Novalis would have directed the officers to publicly available information about the substantial losses made by both operating companies that have run the Halfway House as a pub.

"We believe that the change of use is permitted by planning law without the need for formal consent and will be appealing against the notice."