Quotable quotes “We’re naturally delighted and hugely relieved that Members of the Council demonstrated their good judgement and turned down this deeply unwelcome proposal to convert the last pub in our village into a house.“There’s a long way to go, but we think this is a hugely important step on the way to getting our pub back.“We hope now that North Herts District Council will follow the example of other local authorities and properly enforce the law. They should require the developer to restore The Cabinet to its former state as a pub, as it was before he made his alterations in clear breach of planning law.”Michael HowesChair, Save the Cabinet Action Group21 July 2017
“A little gem”
Reed Parish Council to consult on whether to
borrow to buy The Cabinet
Reed Parish Council has decided to hold a public meeting to gauge views on whether, in principle, it should borrow money to buy The Cabinet, as an additional option to save it as a pub. The meeting will take place on Wednesday 29 November at 8pm at Reed Village Hall. This is a welcome initiative and we encourage supporters to attend.All this presupposes a successful outcome to the planning case - see above and below - but if villagers support the idea, the Parish Council could apply for permission, or “borrowing approval”, from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to borrow money from a government body known as the Public Works Loan Board. Such a loan would be at fixed, low interest rates and over an extended period.A number of parish councils countrywide have taken this step in order to preserve their local pubs. Were the Parish Council to buy the building, it would expect to recruit a tenant to run the pub and look after it on a day-to-day basis. The expectation is that rental paid by the tenant would exceed the monthly repayments and generate a modest profit.Purchase by the Parish Council is only one of three possible routes towards saving the pub. The first route would be purchase by a private buyer - and the Save the Cabinet Action Group has been in discussions with one interested party who is passionate about the pub and very keen for it to reopen.A second route would be purchase by a group of individuals, perhaps in the form of a co-operative.It makes sense, from the perspective of the Action Group, to keep all options open, so the move by the Parish Council potentially to open up this third route is a welcome one.The Public Works Loan Board is a government department which manages money on behalf of HM Treasury. Local authorities, including parish councils, can borrow money for specific purposes - but only if they have “borrowing approval” from DCLG.
Obtaining such approval is no formality. Councils have to demonstrate a business plan for repaying the loan, and support of their electors for taking it out in the first place. But once approval is given, councils can obtain the money quickly when it is needed.Nothing would prevent a parish council which acquired a pub in this manner selling it, for example to a tenant or manager, and paying off the loan early, should that be judged the right course at some future stage.An example of a pub purchased for the community in this way is the Beauchamp Arms in Dymock, Gloucs, which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary as a community pub.Another example is the Dolphin at Bishampton. Read about the approach in that local parish here. Read more about The Dolphin here and do not believe their website, to which current management do not have access.You can also read about Government encouragement to parish councils to act to save struggling pubs and shops.Read Pub is the Hub’s description of purchase by a parish council with a Public Works Loan. It’s taken from their more comprehensive guide to community ownership of pubs, which you can read here.Detailed guidance on borrowing by parish councils is here.
A lively and detailed discussion took place at the well-attended meeting on 29 November, and various important questions were considered about the principle of applying for borrowing approval, and the practical consequences should the matter of a loan be followed through. A show of hands showed overwhelming support among those at the meeting for the Parish Council seeking approval.In the light of the discussions Reed Parish Council initiated a written village survey giving all residents the opportunity to say whether they approved of the idea of the Parish Council borrowing money to purchase The Cabinet.
Village survey demonstrates large majority in
support of loan proposal
Following the public meeting in November on whether they should apply for borrowing authority from the Department for Communities, Housing and Local Government, the first step in taking out a loan to buy the pub, Reed Parish Council conducted a village survey asking Reed residents whether they supported the idea.In results announced at the start of February, 82% of those surveyed approved of the idea with 10% against and 8% undecided. The return rate for the survey was 91%. Commenting on the result, Mike Howes, Chair of the Save the Cabinet Action Group, said: “We welcomed Reed Parish Council’s initiative to see if there is public support for buying
the pub on behalf of the community and are delighted by the strong show of support for the idea. We know of interest from a potential private buyer and a local consortium, but this would provide a new option for reopening The Cabinet as a pub.“In practice, the Parish Council would only contemplate taking out a loan if The Cabinet came on the market and there was no alternative way of saving it as a pub. And before any of that happens, we need to resist the developer’s appeal against refusal of planning permission for change of use.
We have (17 Nov) learned that the developer who owns The Cabinet has lodged his appeal against refusal of planning permission for change of use. The fact that he has appealed comes as no surprise.The appeal now needs to be formally validated by the Planning Inspectorate, a process which can take up to 10 weeks. No timetable for the appeal has yet been published, but any hearing is likely to take place in the spring, possibly later. Once we and our experts have the documents, work can start on making a strong case for resisting it. But we need to raise money quickly to enable us to resist the appeal in the most thorough and professional way we can. We will be launching a new fundraising campaign in the new year.
The decision on 20 July of North Herts Councillors
to refuse planning permission for change of use
was great news, and the campaign to save The
Cabinet negotiated its first major hurdle.
But nobody should assume that’s the end of the battle. There’s a long way to go yet before Reed’s pub could reopen.The developer has the right of appeal, and we confidently expect him to exercise it. He has 6 months to decide whether to appeal.If he does, it is likely to be some further months before an appeal is determined.An appeal can be decided on paper, but in a contentious case like this it is more likely to be taken as a hearing, to which the public is admitted.Interest groups, such as the Save the Cabinet Action Group, can ask to be heard, and it is normal for such requests to be granted.The Action Group is advised by Dale Ingram, an experienced planning an heritage consultant with an excellent track record in this area. Dale will represent us at any such hearing.
We have also been assisted by Anthony Miller, a charted surveyor with particular expertise in the licensed leisure sector.If the appeal is refused, the developer would be unable to sell The Cabinet as a house. We would hope, at that point, that he would accept that the game was up and market the property. In any event, we would expect the planning authority, North Hertfordshire District Council, to take firm enforcement action at that point.
Public Inquiry into Cabinet planning decision
The day after the Planning Inspectorate announced it had upgraded the appeal in the case of The Cabinet to a hearing, we learned that they have upgraded it still further. It will now take the form of a Public Inquiry - the most formal and thorough procedure for dealing with planning appeals. Initially we had been informed that the appeal would be dealt with via the “written procedure”. We can now look forward to the evidence in the case being examined in detail during a court-like procedure involving evidence on oath and lawyers on all sides. The decision demonstrates the importance and significance attached to the case.The Action Group welcomes this. It would have been a travesty if a case which had attracted so much interest had been dealt with behind closed doors. The intervention of Sir Oliver Heald MP (who wrote to the Planning Inspectorate), the Action Group’s recent petition (which attracted over 1400 signatures online and in hard copy), the large volume of written objections and the strength of feeling expressed in the debate in the Council last July will all have contributed to this outcome.No date has yet been fixed for the Inquiry. However we have now learned that the Planning Inspectorate will re-start the timetable for the appeal - so there will be a further opportunity to submit comments and a new set of deadlines. Our current thinking is that the Inquiry itself will take place in the autumn. It’s important to remember that this is a small step on the road to rescuing our lovely old pub. The focus now needs to turn to the substance of the appeal itself, and making sure we achieve the right result.. We also need to raise several thousand pounds urgently in order to meet the costs - including legal costs - of resisting the appeal effectively. If you can spare a few pounds, now would be a good time to help.