If you have not already done so, you have only until this Friday 4 March to make representation to the Planning Inspectorate in objecting to the new appeal by The Plough’s owner.
The planning appeal details (with supporting documents), can be found here and you can make representation to object by visiting the Planning Inspectorate Appeals Case Work Portal, quoting reference 3289126 or by clicking here.
The Plough Pub Potten End Community Interest Company have scoured the appeal paperwork and have created numerous objections pointers that you could use. You will find them all below. Please remember to try and make your objection personal.
Let us all once again rally around, to make our voice heard in our strong belief that The Plough as a public house is a vital asset to our community!
Many thanks for your continued support, Joe Roberts.
As part of the objection to this appeal I want to make sure all the objections submitted to the application are included in the appeal process but in addition to these I want to highlight the following key points:Objection based on the fact that offers have been made on the Pub in its current condition in the current use case (but have been turned down):
- The pub was purchased for £380k by the applicant and since then the building has fallen into a poor state of repair. Since marketing, an offer of £400k has been received by a London operated restaurant, and by a Community Interest Company (The Plough Pub Potten End CIC) for £415k.
- The independent valuation of the pub by the Dacorum Borough’s Council’s surveyor was £400k. Therefore, the asking price of £550k was not a realistic price, and it cannot be said that the pub has been marketed at a realistic price to prove the case that it is not a viable pub.
- Consequently, based on these offers, it is a fair argument that the pub is viable and there are interested parties who would like to purchase the property to continue running it as a public house.
- However, due to the financial gain which would be received from planning for residential development the owner has currently turned down these offers at this level.
- It is also worth noting that the current tenant lease has not been cancelled and the pub is still operating. The National Planning Policy Framework guidelines for conversion to residential of a community asset to residential, is for the asset to not be viable for over 12 months. Their definition of this is an empty unit, boarded up rather than having an ongoing operator who can make the business viable if the rent was reduced to a market level of 9%/10% rather than 20%.
- Another point to note from the agent is that the £40k per annum lease is currently not viable and if the lease was to be cancelled, the open market rent would be £15k–£20k, which, based on the same yield of the £550k valuation, would drop the value of the pub down to £400k. This is where the offers currently on the table have come in.
Objection is based on the lack of evidence on sustainability as a pub:
- The pub has been marketed by Dukes for £550k + VAT with a tenant in situ on a £40k per annum. The fact this has not sold is a based on the viability of the pub as there is a 9 year lease left in place.
- The council’s independent report highlighted the value at £400k in line with the two submitted offers.
- Given this was marketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pub market as a whole has struggled due to the various lockdowns and restrictions.
- No certified accounts have been provided to evidence the turnover of the actual pub. Which we understand if the rent was reduced to market levels of 10% of turnover. So £15k versus £40k, then the pub would be viable under the current tenant. It is the very high rent of 20% + of turnover which is causing the constraint on the pub.
- There is no documentary evidence of the £4k a week trading figure – the Plunkett Foundation show a community pub requires a minimum of £2.5k a week turnover as viable, which The Plough currently achieves.
- It is also noted that their viability is based on a 100% wet led pub. The Plough has a newly fitted kitchen and therefore has the ability to become both a food and wet pub, which is more profitable and better serves the local community.
- No breakdown of payroll and monthly expenditures to prove that the pub is not making a profit and viable is given.
- All the information is based on stats which favour their cause rather than on the actual profitability of the current business.
- Before a decision can be made on viability, we would expect an application to include the accounts and a statement from The Plough’s current tenants, rather than market benchmarks and theoretical numbers.
- Given the success of other pubs in the area, the money and demand is there. The current struggle for The Plough is the run-down condition of the building and the community offering it provides.
- Another key point for viability is to look at the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) viability test which highlights that The Plough has the ability to be a viable pub if managed correctly. The CAMRA guidelines on marketing, is that the pub needs to be advertised in the property section of the Morning Advertiser and their national online sales platform for pubs.
- They also require the pub to be marketed as a going concern rather than at full price – as a pub that is struggling due to management will impact the valuation and can be a cause for ‘change of use’ applications. That said, change of use to residential due to poor management is not a reason for the pub not being viable.
- A standard test would be if the pub was in good condition and given to a proven operator, would the pub be viable? Given that Potten End has a population of over 1300 people, there is no reason that if the pub was run by a proven manager, then the demand and customers are available to make the pub profitable. This is why the villagers themselves have put together funds and has submitted an offer to purchase The Plough for the community, as they are happy that the pub is a viable business venture.
Objection is based on the loss of a community amenity, going against the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF): to ‘guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day to day needs’ (93 C).
- The supporting text in the guidelines is makes clear that ‘facilities’ includes pubs. Other useful provisions are at paragraphs 7 and 8 (recognising the value of communities in supporting the concept of sustainable development), paragraph 93 e (promotion of community uses in new developments)
Objection based on the fact that The Plough has an Asset of Community Value (ACV) status and therefore clearly demonstrates that the pub is cherished as an important element of the local community. The fact that members of the local community have created a CIC to trigger a moratorium period, have campaigned, fundraised, and have submitted a realistic offer for the pub (see above), only adds to the case that the wider community value The Plough and believe it can be a viable public house.The Plunkett Foundation (a charity that helps communities in the purchase of community assets) states that of the nearly 100 pubs which have been bought by local communities, not one has failed (Source; What’s Brewing, December 2019). In virtually every case, where an attempt has been made to close the pub and to change its use, a viability report will have been produced to show that it is not viable as a going concern, and yet in every case they will have been proved wrong.