SAVE OUR VILLAGE PUB!

© Save the Cabinet Action Group 2021

Campaign news

Enough is enough: Action group issues formal complaint to District Council

Nearly six years have passed since the present owner of The Cabinet acquired it and turned it into a house without applying for planning or listed building consent. Unfortunately, the record of the local planning authority in this case remains a pretty poor one. North Hertfordshire District Council have allowed the owner to get away with one abuse of the planning system after another. We don’t know what damage may have been done to the fabric of the lovely, Grade II listed Cabinet, which has been a hostelry for local people for 400 years. As far as we know no proper survey has been carried out. What we do know is that these unlawful developments have wrecked the inside of the poor old pub: the old timber bar and the familiar public facilities are all gone, and the character of the building has been changed fundamentally. We have tried hard to work constructively with the Council, most notably in 2018 when our lawyers worked together to resist an appeal against the decision to refuse permission for change of use. We might have hoped that the failed appeal might have led to swift action to enforce planning controls and enable us to get our village pub back. Unfortunately, such enforcement action as the council has taken has been ineffective. In 2019 the council rightly refused planning permission and listed building consent for subdivision of the pub – an arrangement whereby the larger part of the building would remain a house, with a small part being kept as a pub – and issued an enforcement notice designed to stop the pub being used as a private residence. But in 2020 the owner subdivided the pub anyway and, days before the enforcement notice came into effect, opened The Spice Cabinet, a small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” occupying a third of the former trading area. And the council decided, to incredulity within the community, that the residential use of the rest of the building was “ancillary” to the pub use – among other things because it could be used for storage and for overnight accommodation of staff – so that they did not need to take further enforcement action. But they made clear that the file remained open. Construction or conversion of outbuildings for storage and for accommodation, and exclusion of the public from the residential areas including parts of the patio and garden, all call the decision further into question but, as yet, the council’s planning department has taken no further action. We have nothing against The Spice Cabinet itself and would welcome it or any other suitable restaurant as part of a fully reopened village pub. But a small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” on its own does not perform the same function within a community as a village pub, and the current arrangement still lacks planning permission and listed building consent. Retrospective applications for planning and listed building consent that would effectively authorise the alterations carried out until now remain before the council for determination. They are poorly argued and incomplete, and there are strong reasons to refuse them. In spring 2021 we were given to understand that a decision on the latest applications was imminent. But the owner managed to delay matters by making two separate amendments to the plans, triggering two public re-consultations. The second of those expired in early May. Four months have passed since then, without decision or explanation. What’s more, those applications don’t cover conversion by the owner of an outbuilding to residential accommodation, apparently for the staff of the restaurant, without planning permission – a move that we understand has attracted the attention of the environmental health department, among others. And at no stage have any building control or fire safety inspections been carried out following the works at The Cabinet – an alarming fact bearing in mind that these relate directly to the safety of users of the building, including staff and customers. Nor has a food hygiene certification inspection has ever been carried out on the restaurant, although it has been trading for over a year. Even with the challenges of Covid we would have expected this to have been done by now, especially given the history of the owner of the building in failing to follow due process. This points to serious failings of internal communication within the council. Local people often ask us what is stopping the council taking tough enforcement action. The answer is we don’t know. And the Council has recently decided it won’t talk to us, the parish council or even its own elected members about planning enforcement cases. The Save the Cabinet Action Group alone has spent over £34,000 on professional services to help us fight to preserve the pub – money raised through private donations, sponsorship and fundraising events. That, together with what we are certain must be many thousands of pounds of public money, could have been saved if the Council had made proper use of its extensive powers from the outset. Enough is enough. The Save the Cabinet Action Group has now submitted a formal letter of complaint to the managing director of the Council. We consider we owe nothing less to our supporters, and to all those who have donated to the cause, sponsored us or come to our fundraising events.

Still no news from North Herts

It’s hard to write a news item when there is little to report. The flurry of activity during the spring, with amendments to the plans, necessitating consultations and re-consultations, led to the usual spirited response from the Reed community and beyond, and no less than 49 objections are showing against the planning application (thank you, as always, for the support). In the spring we were given to understand that a decision might be made within days. We are now into July, and enquiries as to the state of play by action group members and by our District Councillor have not provided any guidance as to when a decision will be made. Regular readers will understand that we think there are strong reasons to refuse the current applications - read below for more about this. Indications are that the planning department at North Herts have a substantial backlog as well as resourcing constraints, and there is no reason to think that the case of The Cabinet is in any way singled out - although given how long this case has been running we might have hoped it should be given a bit of priority. We will, naturally, report news when we have some. Separately, we’ve been approached by the grandson of a former publican at The Cabinet who has plugged one of the gaps in our account of the recent history. Read the account here.

Another re-consultation after new plans submitted

Just weeks after the most recent re-consultation by the planning authority, North Herts District Council closed, they are consulting yet again on the current planning permission and listed building consent applications. It follows submission of amended plans. The deadline for responses is 8 May. The new plans show the installation of new railings and a gate at the front of the two-storey part of the building, and boxing-in of the kitchen flue. Although launching a consultation means that it is open to interested parties to comment on any aspect of the application, the Council have asked that comments be limited to the new points. We agree, and see little point in repeating points already made, especially when the previous consultation was so recent. These amendments form part of important applications for planning and listed building consent. The latter seeks to regularise work to the building carried out since 2015 without the necessary planning or listed building consent. If granted it would have the effect of perpetuating the current effective subdivision of the building into a large residential area with a small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” at one end. However, we think there are strong reasons for refusal. This campaign has always sought to reopen the entirety of The Cabinet as the village pub it was and should be, an aim that has not yet been met. A small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” does not perform the same function within a community as a village pub, although it could, of course, form part of a larger pub offering. The new points may seem trivial or technical, but they do have wider implications. The railings are clearly designed to exclude the public from the patio. They mirror the arrangements at the rear, where a fence has been erected to cordon off part of the pub garden. Both were important parts of the trading area of the pub and it’s hard to see how such exclusion is consistent with the lawful use of these external areas in a manner that is “ancillary” to the pub use. The Action Group made this point in response to the previous consultation. As to the boxing in of the flue, the amended plans indicate that this would be done by using featheredge timber - in other words, fence boarding. It would only partly conceal the flue, and would have the effect of changing the shape of the roof of what is a Grade II listed building. Whilst any pub kitchen needs to have proper arrangements for extraction of fumes, it need not have been done in this way. Our expert from Turley’s, the heritage building consultants, summed the matter up most aptly in the objection submitted on our behalf in April: “… there are more sympathetic and successful ways of achieving the same extract requirements, without causing the current level of harm to the character and appearance of the building. In our view, this underlines the apparent disregard given to the heritage status of the building by the applicant up to this point.” The Action Group will respond appropriately to the latest consultation. Once it is concluded we trust that the planning authority will be able to move quickly towards a determination.

Re-consultation provides a new opportunity to have your say

North Herts District Council’s new consultation provides a fresh opportunity for supporters to comment in writing on the planning permission and listed building consent applications. The deadline to do so is 1 April. The new consultation has been triggered by amendments to the plans, which amount principally to the extension to the kitchen flue and changes to the kitchen store. But these don’t tell the whole story. Arguably, what isn’t included is just as important as what is. In a fresh breach of planning control, the owner of The Cabinet has converted an outhouse to residential accommodation, presumably for the staff of the Spice Cabinet. No application for the required planning permission for this development has been made, but NHDC’s planning department are aware of it, as are the environmental health department. Whilst it is normal for the manager of a pub to live in the building, the apparent need for additional accommodation in this case calls into question whether the two-storey part of the main building is genuinely being used in a way that is “ancillary” to the pub use, as has previously been found by the council, or whether it is in reality just the owner’s private residence. Removal of patio doors in the restaurant area overlooking the garden (shown in the amended plans), coupled with the fence which now divides the pub garden, add to the argument that the Council was mistaken in its finding that the residential area was being used in a way that was ancillary to the “pub” use. To be clear: we have no quarrel with the staff of the Spice Cabinet. Our campaign has always aimed to restore the entirety of The Cabinet as a pub at the heart of the village—and we have said all along that we would welcome the Spice Cabinet or any other suitable restaurant as part of a fully-reopened pub. Alongside development of the outhouse, the already ugly kitchen flue—clearly visible from High Street—has been extended, making it even more incongruous. And it’s unnecessary: other pub kitchens operate perfectly well without such enormous chimneys. Since 2015, the owner of The Cabinet has been allowed to make damaging changes to the lovely 400-year-old pub without first obtaining planning permission or listed building consent, and without effective action by the local planning authority to stop him. A consequence of this is that it is impossible for the District Council to be able to take a proper view of the cumulative effect of the development as a whole, as they must. What’s more, the owner has never made a proper assessment of the effect of his alterations on the building as a whole, especially its heritage features, nor provided any adequate justification for them. We urge supporters to take the opportunity to send in further comments to NHDC. Comments can be sent on both the planning permission and listed building consent applications. The easiest and quickest way to do so is online - but hurry, the deadline is Thursday 1 April.

New consultation on planning and listed building consent applications

North Herts District Council has re-consulted on the current planning permission and listed building consent applications. Amended plans have been submitted in respect of both. The Save the Cabinet Action Group will study these carefully before offering advice to supporters. The deadline for written observations is 1 April. Regular readers will be aware that the current planning application, though apparently technical in nature, was significant in that it would perpetuate an unlawful change of use - read more here. As has happened numerous times before, supporters responded magnificently and submitted 30 or so written objections. The Council’s own conservation officer has objected to the current planning application on the grounds of the effect of the fence, storage areas and the kitchen flue on the listed building. The Action Group has become aware of various unauthorised works on the Cabinet premises, including an extension to the kitchen flue which renders it even more incongruous and out of keeping with the Grade II listed building. Watch this space for more news.

Continuing public support for campaign to save The Cabinet

We are conscious of having been a bit quiet recently on public-facing media but rest assured that we are still working hard behind the scenes to see off the latest outrageous developments, with a view to reclaiming Reed's last pub as a facility for everyone. The public response to the most recent planning application was fantastic, showing once again the continuing support for the campaign - so thank you to everyone who commented. On the technical side, new plans have been submitted relating to the existing (but as yet undetermined) application for listed building consent on The Cabinet, dating from June 2020. We’ll be seeking clarification as to whether the changes are considered material by NHDC, because if they are then there should be a new opportunity to comment. Meanwhile, as lockdown continues making it a difficult time for everyone, it’s hard to believe that our last fundraising event was a New Year’s Eve party welcoming 2020, which raised a four-figure sum towards the Save the Cabinet Fighting Fund. Little did we imagine that it would be our last public event before a pandemic. We also didn’t foresee still greater complexity in our planning dispute, with yet more unlawful development, and the creation of the takeaway restaurant - and, let’s be clear, it’s a restaurant and not a pub - coupled with continued inaction by the planning authority. When it's safe to do so we’ll be sure we'll organise another great pop-up pub event in Reed. And let’s hope it’s not too long before the (proper) pubs open again. They will need your support more than ever.

Time to act on questionable planning application

The owner of The Cabinet has submitted yet another retrospective planning application, this time to keep a fence that divides the pub garden, as well as a large and unsightly flue from the new kitchen, and an enclosed rear store. The deadline for making comments is quite soon - Wednesday 25 November. On the face of it a fence and a chimney may not appear so significant - but in the context of the recent planning history of The Cabinet it's actually quite important. Supporters will recall that in summer 2019 North Herts District Council issued an enforcement notice on The Cabinet to prevent its unlawful use as a residence. We were surprised and disappointed when, in the summer, after the opening of The "Spice Cabinet", they decided that the owner's residential use of the larger part of The Cabinet was "ancillary" to the "pub use". We think they got this wrong. The "Spice Cabinet" is plainly not a pub - it's principally a restaurant and takeaway, and it should therefore fall within a different planning class for which permission should have been sought. What's more, the part of the building being used as a residence is at least twice the size of the "pub/restaurant" area. In that context, the council's finding looks odd. Fortunately they have said they will keep a watching brief, and so if there is evidence that the residence is no longer ancillary to the pub they will look at it again. Earlier this year, having already carried out the works, the owner applied for planning permission and listed building consent to subdivide the building, treating the larger, two storey section as his house permanently, and having the area now occupied by the "Spice Cabinet" designated as a pub. After the Council decided that his current residential use was lawful, he withdrew the application for planning permission (the listed building application remains undecided). The fence he is asking to retain is on the line where the subdivision would have been. So the first reason to comment is that the fence would perpetuate an unlawful change of use. Even if that's not accepted, it must be questionable why a resident pub landlord would fence off a large part of the pub garden, bearing in mind that it forms a large part of the trading area, especially in the summer. This suggests that the owner isn't really using the residence as part of the pub at all - it's all for his own use and part of his long-standing campaign to turn the whole of our lovely old pub into a house for himself. If there is evidence of that sort we would expect the council to look again at their decision not to enforce against him. Next, to the kitchen flue - the hideous metal thing that sticks out of the roof of the new kitchen. It was put up without planning permission or listed building consent presumably because the applicant knew he wouldn't get it if he asked first. It's clearly wholly out of keeping with the appearance of The Cabinet - a listed building - it's large and attracts the eye, can be seen from across the meadows, and it has a detrimental effect on the setting of the listed building. No attempt has been made in the application to justify it or to provide the technical reasons as to why it is thought necessary. Other pub kitchens operate without hideous chimneys like this. Both the fence, which is attached to the building, and the flue, would also require listed building consent. But no application for such consent has been made. It follows that even if planning permission were granted, both the fence and the flue would remain unlawful development. The Council will not need reminding that carrying out works to a listed building without first obtaining the necessary consent is a criminal offence. But the fact that no listed building consent exists or has been applied for is reason to refuse the application for planning permission. We know many supporters are especially frustrated by the fact that one application after another is made retrospectively by the owner of The Cabinet. Whilst the law allows for this - it’s designed to allow genuine mistakes to be corrected - this course of conduct means it’s impossible for the council to take a proper view of the merits of the entire development. This application sits alongside an outstanding application for listed building consent which makes no reference to the points raised here about the kitchen flue or the fence. It’s time North Herts got tough. Otherwise the planning system will be a laughing stock.

New retrospective planning application poses questions

Yet another retrospective planning application has been submitted to NHDC: this time seeking permission for retention of a fence across the pub garden at the rear of the property, and of the large new kitchen flue and a store at the rear of the kitchen area. On the face of it a fence may not seem the most significant issue, bearing in mind the history of planning applications over 4 years described on this web site. But closer inspection reveals that it is problematical. The owner recently submitted and then withdrew an application for permission to subdivide the property, treating the larger part of it permanently as his house. This was withdrawn following the surprising decision of North Herts District Council that the current residential use of the property was ancillary to the pub use and was therefore lawful. Fencing off those parts of the pub garden that pertain to the part of the building the owner wished to designate permanently as a house after the application for permission to do so was withdrawn appears inconsistent. And if the residential use truly was ancillary to the pub use it is highly questionable why the owner would wish to divide up the pub garden. All of this tends to support our view that the local planning authority have had the wool pulled over their eyes. The planning authority have said that they will maintain a watching brief, so we expect them to take particular notice of any evidence tending to show that the residential use is not, or is no longer, ancillary to the pub use. We therefore expect them to take a very close look at this latest application and the questions it raises. The application also seeks permission to retain the large and unsightly kitchen flue at the rear of the property, as well as an enclosed store. The former has rightly been characterised by NHDC as affecting the setting of a listed building. As usual, it was installed without bothering to seek the requisite consents first, something that inexplicably does not seem to bother the local planning authority, despite their duty to make sure that the planning system does not fall into disrepute. If you wish to object to the latest application, please note that the deadline for doing so is Wednesday 25 November.

Planning application withdrawn

The owner of The Cabinet has withdrawn the planning application he lodged in July 2020. This would have subdivided the property, making the main two-storey section permanently into a house while preserving only the section currently occupied by an Indian restaurant and takeaway as a “pub”. This follows the surprising announcement in August by North Herts District Council that they did not intend to take any further action on the enforcement notice designed to prevent continued unauthorised use of the building as a residence. Many local residents and other supporters, including members of the Action Group, had submitted written objections to the proposals, and we considered there were strong reasons for the planning authority to refuse planning permission - even though, to all outward appearances, subdivision has already taken place. It follows that the whole of The Cabinet remains, in planning terms, a pub. We were originally under the apprehension that the application for listed building consent had also been withdrawn. In fact it is still current, and this story has been updated accordingly. Regular readers will be aware that no listed building consent exists for the various works carried out to the building since 2015, some of which, according to our expert advice, could cause significant long-term damage to the fabric of the building. The Action Group is seeking advice on next steps.

Vital stage in battle to save The Cabinet lies ahead

We know many supporters were disappointed with the news that that the Council had decided not to take action for breach of the planning enforcement notice that was supposed to prevent the continued unlawful use of The Cabinet as a house. The Action Group was not convinced by the reasons given by the Council for the decision. However, what is clear from the reasoning is that if the current "pub" - in fact an Indian takeaway in a small part of the building - were to close, continued use of the building as a residence could lead to prosecution in the criminal courts. Importantly, it was also made clear that the decision was entirely separate from the question of the current applications for planning and listed buildings consent. Let's be clear. This campaign is not over. Far from it. In fact, an existential battle, one that will determine the future of The Cabinet as a pub, lies ahead. The owner has applied for planning permission to subdivide the premises, treating the larger, two-storey section as his house, and the smaller section as a "pub". Many supporters have submitted written objections to this proposal - thank you. One of the questions raised was whether the Indian takeaway is actually a "pub" for planning purposes. But we need to focus on the bigger picture. That application, together with the associated application for listed building consent, must be refused in order to maintain The Cabinet’s status as a pub. Two years ago, the owner argued before a 3-day public inquiry that the planning inspector should allow him retrospective permission to turn the whole of the building permanently into a house because it was not viable as a pub. Viability is important because it's one of the few reasons for turning pubs into houses allowed under national and local planning policy. The planning inspector found The Cabinet could indeed be viable. Now the owner expects us to believe he thinks that a “pub” on the site less than half the size, with a maximum of just 50 people allowed on the premises, could be viable. It’s simply not credible. We fully expect that (contrary to the owner’s public protestations), if planning permission were to be granted the restaurant would close after a short time and the last section of the premises would become part of the house. It's an obvious ploy and a common one, known among planning experts as a "Trojan horse". It’s inevitable that if this application is granted Reed would have lost its last pub forever. We need to continue to pull together as a community to do everything we can to prevent that happening. We have every confidence that the Council will see this ruse for what it is. We'll keep you up to date with news as we receive it. But we don't expect a decision before October.

Council to take no action on enforcement notice

We have learned that North Herts District Council have decided not to take action under the enforcement notice, which was supposed to prevent The Cabinet being used unlawfully as a residence. The email announcing the decision states that following a site inspection planning officers have concluded that the current residential use of The Cabinet is incidental to the running of the “Spice Cabinet” restaurant and takeaway. The officer also states that the enforcement notice continues in force and that any residential use that is not incidental to the authorised use would be a criminal matter. They also assert that this finding does not affect the current applications for planning and listed building consent. It seems clear that the planning officers have had the wool pulled over their eyes. It is evident to anybody who cares to look that Mr Newman is continuing to use the main part of the building as his residence. His intentions are clear from the fact that he has applied for planning permission to subdivide the premises and treat the main part of them as a house In all the circumstances it is abundantly clear to us that the finding is misconceived and illogical. The Action Group will be seeking independent advice on the finding by NHDC before deciding on next steps. Meanwhile we need to keep our focus on the current planning applications which, if granted, would almost certainly mean the permanent loss of the pub to the village. We understand these will not be determined before October. __________________________________ More news stories in News Archive

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Campaign

news

Enough is enough: Action group issues formal

complaint to District Council

Nearly six years have passed since the present owner of The Cabinet acquired it and turned it into a house without applying for planning or listed building consent. Unfortunately, the record of the local planning authority in this case remains a pretty poor one. North Hertfordshire District Council have allowed the owner to get away with one abuse of the planning system after another. We don’t know what damage may have been done to the fabric of the lovely, Grade II listed Cabinet, which has been a hostelry for local people for 400 years. As far as we know no proper survey has been carried out. What we do know is that these unlawful developments have wrecked the inside of the poor old pub: the old timber bar and the familiar public facilities are all gone, and the character of the building has been changed fundamentally. We have tried hard to work constructively with the Council, most notably in 2018 when our lawyers worked together to resist an appeal against the decision to refuse permission for change of use. We might have hoped that the failed appeal might have led to swift action to enforce planning controls and enable us to get our village pub back. Unfortunately, such enforcement action as the council has taken has been ineffective. In 2019 the council rightly refused planning permission and listed building consent for subdivision of the pub – an arrangement whereby the larger part of the building would remain a house, with a small part being kept as a pub – and issued an enforcement notice designed to stop the pub being used as a private residence. But in 2020 the owner subdivided the pub anyway and, days before the enforcement notice came into effect, opened The Spice Cabinet, a small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” occupying a third of the former trading area. And the council decided, to incredulity within the community, that the residential use of the rest of the building was “ancillary” to the pub use – among other things because it could be used for storage and for overnight accommodation of staff – so that they did not need to take further enforcement action. But they made clear that the file remained open. Construction or conversion of outbuildings for storage and for accommodation, and exclusion of the public from the residential areas including parts of the patio and garden, all call the decision further into question but, as yet, the council’s planning department has taken no further action. We have nothing against The Spice Cabinet itself and would welcome it or any other suitable restaurant as part of a fully reopened village pub. But a small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” on its own does not perform the same function within a community as a village pub, and the current arrangement still lacks planning permission and listed building consent. Retrospective applications for planning and listed building consent that would effectively authorise the alterations carried out until now remain before the council for determination. They are poorly argued and incomplete, and there are strong reasons to refuse them. In spring 2021 we were given to understand that a decision on the latest applications was imminent. But the owner managed to delay matters by making two separate amendments to the plans, triggering two public re- consultations. The second of those expired in early May. Four months have passed since then, without decision or explanation. What’s more, those applications don’t cover conversion by the owner of an outbuilding to residential accommodation, apparently for the staff of the restaurant, without planning permission – a move that we understand has attracted the attention of the environmental health department, among others. And at no stage have any building control or fire safety inspections been carried out following the works at The Cabinet – an alarming fact bearing in mind that these relate directly to the safety of users of the building, including staff and customers. Nor has a food hygiene certification inspection has ever been carried out on the restaurant, although it has been trading for over a year. Even with the challenges of Covid we would have expected this to have been done by now, especially given the history of the owner of the building in failing to follow due process. This points to serious failings of internal communication within the council. Local people often ask us what is stopping the council taking tough enforcement action. The answer is we don’t know. And the Council has recently decided it won’t talk to us, the parish council or even its own elected members about planning enforcement cases. The Save the Cabinet Action Group alone has spent over £34,000 on professional services to help us fight to preserve the pub – money raised through private donations, sponsorship and fundraising events. That, together with what we are certain must be many thousands of pounds of public money, could have been saved if the Council had made proper use of its extensive powers from the outset. Enough is enough. The Save the Cabinet Action Group has now submitted a formal letter of complaint to the managing director of the Council. We consider we owe nothing less to our supporters, and to all those who have donated to the cause, sponsored us or come to our fundraising events.

Still no news from North Herts

It’s hard to write a news item when there is little to report. The flurry of activity during the spring, with amendments to the plans, necessitating consultations and re-consultations, led to the usual spirited response from the Reed community and beyond, and no less than 49 objections are showing against the planning application (thank you, as always, for the support). In the spring we were given to understand that a decision might be made within days. We are now into July, and enquiries as to the state of play by action group members and by our District Councillor have not provided any guidance as to when a decision will be made. Regular readers will understand that we think there are strong reasons to refuse the current applications - read below for more about this. Indications are that the planning department at North Herts have a substantial backlog as well as resourcing constraints, and there is no reason to think that the case of The Cabinet is in any way singled out - although given how long this case has been running we might have hoped it should be given a bit of priority. We will, naturally, report news when we have some. Separately, we’ve been approached by the grandson of a former publican at The Cabinet who has plugged one of the gaps in our account of the recent history. Read the account here.

Another re-consultation after new plans

submitted

Just weeks after the most recent re-consultation by the planning authority, North Herts District Council closed, they are consulting yet again on the current planning permission and listed building consent applications. It follows submission of amended plans. The deadline for responses is 8 May. The new plans show the installation of new railings and a gate at the front of the two-storey part of the building, and boxing-in of the kitchen flue. Although launching a consultation means that it is open to interested parties to comment on any aspect of the application, the Council have asked that comments be limited to the new points. We agree, and see little point in repeating points already made, especially when the previous consultation was so recent. These amendments form part of important applications for planning and listed building consent. The latter seeks to regularise work to the building carried out since 2015 without the necessary planning or listed building consent. If granted it would have the effect of perpetuating the current effective subdivision of the building into a large residential area with a small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” at one end. However, we think there are strong reasons for refusal. This campaign has always sought to reopen the entirety of The Cabinet as the village pub it was and should be, an aim that has not yet been met. A small “bar, restaurant and takeaway” does not perform the same function within a community as a village pub, although it could, of course, form part of a larger pub offering. The new points may seem trivial or technical, but they do have wider implications. The railings are clearly designed to exclude the public from the patio. They mirror the arrangements at the rear, where a fence has been erected to cordon off part of the pub garden. Both were important parts of the trading area of the pub and it’s hard to see how such exclusion is consistent with the lawful use of these external areas in a manner that is “ancillary” to the pub use. The Action Group made this point in response to the previous consultation. As to the boxing in of the flue, the amended plans indicate that this would be done by using featheredge timber - in other words, fence boarding. It would only partly conceal the flue, and would have the effect of changing the shape of the roof of what is a Grade II listed building. Whilst any pub kitchen needs to have proper arrangements for extraction of fumes, it need not have been done in this way. Our expert from Turley’s, the heritage building consultants, summed the matter up most aptly in the objection submitted on our behalf in April: “… there are more sympathetic and successful ways of achieving the same extract requirements, without causing the current level of harm to the character and appearance of the building. In our view, this underlines the apparent disregard given to the heritage status of the building by the applicant up to this point.” The Action Group will respond appropriately to the latest consultation. Once it is concluded we trust that the planning authority will be able to move quickly towards a determination.

Re-consultation provides a new opportunity

to have your say

North Herts District Council’s new consultation provides a fresh opportunity for supporters to comment in writing on the planning permission and listed building consent applications. The deadline to do so is 1 April. The new consultation has been triggered by amendments to the plans, which amount principally to the extension to the kitchen flue and changes to the kitchen store. But these don’t tell the whole story. Arguably, what isn’t included is just as important as what is. In a fresh breach of planning control, the owner of The Cabinet has converted an outhouse to residential accommodation, presumably for the staff of the Spice Cabinet. No application for the required planning permission for this development has been made, but NHDC’s planning department are aware of it, as are the environmental health department. Whilst it is normal for the manager of a pub to live in the building, the apparent need for additional accommodation in this case calls into question whether the two-storey part of the main building is genuinely being used in a way that is “ancillary” to the pub use, as has previously been found by the council, or whether it is in reality just the owner’s private residence. Removal of patio doors in the restaurant area overlooking the garden (shown in the amended plans), coupled with the fence which now divides the pub garden, add to the argument that the Council was mistaken in its finding that the residential area was being used in a way that was ancillary to the “pub” use. To be clear: we have no quarrel with the staff of the Spice Cabinet. Our campaign has always aimed to restore the entirety of The Cabinet as a pub at the heart of the village—and we have said all along that we would welcome the Spice Cabinet or any other suitable restaurant as part of a fully-reopened pub. Alongside development of the outhouse, the already ugly kitchen flue—clearly visible from High Street—has been extended, making it even more incongruous. And it’s unnecessary: other pub kitchens operate perfectly well without such enormous chimneys. Since 2015, the owner of The Cabinet has been allowed to make damaging changes to the lovely 400-year-old pub without first obtaining planning permission or listed building consent, and without effective action by the local planning authority to stop him. A consequence of this is that it is impossible for the District Council to be able to take a proper view of the cumulative effect of the development as a whole, as they must. What’s more, the owner has never made a proper assessment of the effect of his alterations on the building as a whole, especially its heritage features, nor provided any adequate justification for them. We urge supporters to take the opportunity to send in further comments to NHDC. Comments can be sent on both the planning permission and listed building consent applications. The easiest and quickest way to do so is online - but hurry, the deadline is Thursday 1 April.

New consultation on planning and listed

building consent applications

North Herts District Council has re-consulted on the current planning permission and listed building consent applications. Amended plans have been submitted in respect of both. The Save the Cabinet Action Group will study these carefully before offering advice to supporters. The deadline for written observations is 1 April. Regular readers will be aware that the current planning application, though apparently technical in nature, was significant in that it would perpetuate an unlawful change of use - read more here. As has happened numerous times before, supporters responded magnificently and submitted 30 or so written objections. The Council’s own conservation officer has objected to the current planning application on the grounds of the effect of the fence, storage areas and the kitchen flue on the listed building. The Action Group has become aware of various unauthorised works on the Cabinet premises, including an extension to the kitchen flue which renders it even more incongruous and out of keeping with the Grade II listed building. Watch this space for more news.

Continuing public support for campaign to

save The Cabinet

We are conscious of having been a bit quiet recently on public-facing media but rest assured that we are still working hard behind the scenes to see off the latest outrageous developments, with a view to reclaiming Reed's last pub as a facility for everyone. The public response to the most recent planning application was fantastic, showing once again the continuing support for the campaign - so thank you to everyone who commented. On the technical side, new plans have been submitted relating to the existing (but as yet undetermined) application for listed building consent on The Cabinet, dating from June 2020. We’ll be seeking clarification as to whether the changes are considered material by NHDC, because if they are then there should be a new opportunity to comment. Meanwhile, as lockdown continues making it a difficult time for everyone, it’s hard to believe that our last fundraising event was a New Year’s Eve party welcoming 2020, which raised a four-figure sum towards the Save the Cabinet Fighting Fund. Little did we imagine that it would be our last public event before a pandemic. We also didn’t foresee still greater complexity in our planning dispute, with yet more unlawful development, and the creation of the takeaway restaurant - and, let’s be clear, it’s a restaurant and not a pub - coupled with continued inaction by the planning authority. When it's safe to do so we’ll be sure we'll organise another great pop-up pub event in Reed. And let’s hope it’s not too long before the (proper) pubs open again. They will need your support more than ever.

Time to act on questionable planning

application

The owner of The Cabinet has submitted yet another retrospective planning application, this time to keep a fence that divides the pub garden, as well as a large and unsightly flue from the new kitchen, and an enclosed rear store. The deadline for making comments is quite soon - Wednesday 25 November. On the face of it a fence and a chimney may not appear so significant - but in the context of the recent planning history of The Cabinet it's actually quite important. Supporters will recall that in summer 2019 North Herts District Council issued an enforcement notice on The Cabinet to prevent its unlawful use as a residence. We were surprised and disappointed when, in the summer, after the opening of The "Spice Cabinet", they decided that the owner's residential use of the larger part of The Cabinet was "ancillary" to the "pub use". We think they got this wrong. The "Spice Cabinet" is plainly not a pub - it's principally a restaurant and takeaway, and it should therefore fall within a different planning class for which permission should have been sought. What's more, the part of the building being used as a residence is at least twice the size of the "pub/restaurant" area. In that context, the council's finding looks odd. Fortunately they have said they will keep a watching brief, and so if there is evidence that the residence is no longer ancillary to the pub they will look at it again. Earlier this year, having already carried out the works, the owner applied for planning permission and listed building consent to subdivide the building, treating the larger, two storey section as his house permanently, and having the area now occupied by the "Spice Cabinet" designated as a pub. After the Council decided that his current residential use was lawful, he withdrew the application for planning permission (the listed building application remains undecided). The fence he is asking to retain is on the line where the subdivision would have been. So the first reason to comment is that the fence would perpetuate an unlawful change of use. Even if that's not accepted, it must be questionable why a resident pub landlord would fence off a large part of the pub garden, bearing in mind that it forms a large part of the trading area, especially in the summer. This suggests that the owner isn't really using the residence as part of the pub at all - it's all for his own use and part of his long-standing campaign to turn the whole of our lovely old pub into a house for himself. If there is evidence of that sort we would expect the council to look again at their decision not to enforce against him. Next, to the kitchen flue - the hideous metal thing that sticks out of the roof of the new kitchen. It was put up without planning permission or listed building consent presumably because the applicant knew he wouldn't get it if he asked first. It's clearly wholly out of keeping with the appearance of The Cabinet - a listed building - it's large and attracts the eye, can be seen from across the meadows, and it has a detrimental effect on the setting of the listed building. No attempt has been made in the application to justify it or to provide the technical reasons as to why it is thought necessary. Other pub kitchens operate without hideous chimneys like this. Both the fence, which is attached to the building, and the flue, would also require listed building consent. But no application for such consent has been made. It follows that even if planning permission were granted, both the fence and the flue would remain unlawful development. The Council will not need reminding that carrying out works to a listed building without first obtaining the necessary consent is a criminal offence. But the fact that no listed building consent exists or has been applied for is reason to refuse the application for planning permission. We know many supporters are especially frustrated by the fact that one application after another is made retrospectively by the owner of The Cabinet. Whilst the law allows for this - it’s designed to allow genuine mistakes to be corrected - this course of conduct means it’s impossible for the council to take a proper view of the merits of the entire development. This application sits alongside an outstanding application for listed building consent which makes no reference to the points raised here about the kitchen flue or the fence. It’s time North Herts got tough. Otherwise the planning system will be a laughing stock.

New retrospective planning application poses

questions

Yet another retrospective planning application has been submitted to NHDC: this time seeking permission for retention of a fence across the pub garden at the rear of the property, and of the large new kitchen flue and a store at the rear of the kitchen area. On the face of it a fence may not seem the most significant issue, bearing in mind the history of planning applications over 4 years described on this web site. But closer inspection reveals that it is problematical. The owner recently submitted and then withdrew an application for permission to subdivide the property, treating the larger part of it permanently as his house. This was withdrawn following the surprising decision of North Herts District Council that the current residential use of the property was ancillary to the pub use and was therefore lawful. Fencing off those parts of the pub garden that pertain to the part of the building the owner wished to designate permanently as a house after the application for permission to do so was withdrawn appears inconsistent. And if the residential use truly was ancillary to the pub use it is highly questionable why the owner would wish to divide up the pub garden. All of this tends to support our view that the local planning authority have had the wool pulled over their eyes. The planning authority have said that they will maintain a watching brief, so we expect them to take particular notice of any evidence tending to show that the residential use is not, or is no longer, ancillary to the pub use. We therefore expect them to take a very close look at this latest application and the questions it raises. The application also seeks permission to retain the large and unsightly kitchen flue at the rear of the property, as well as an enclosed store. The former has rightly been characterised by NHDC as affecting the setting of a listed building. As usual, it was installed without bothering to seek the requisite consents first, something that inexplicably does not seem to bother the local planning authority, despite their duty to make sure that the planning system does not fall into disrepute. If you wish to object to the latest application, please note that the deadline for doing so is Wednesday 25 November.

Planning application withdrawn

The owner of The Cabinet has withdrawn the planning application he lodged in July 2020. This would have subdivided the property, making the main two-storey section permanently into a house while preserving only the section currently occupied by an Indian restaurant and takeaway as a “pub”. This follows the surprising announcement in August by North Herts District Council that they did not intend to take any further action on the enforcement notice designed to prevent continued unauthorised use of the building as a residence. Many local residents and other supporters, including members of the Action Group, had submitted written objections to the proposals, and we considered there were strong reasons for the planning authority to refuse planning permission - even though, to all outward appearances, subdivision has already taken place. It follows that the whole of The Cabinet remains, in planning terms, a pub. We were originally under the apprehension that the application for listed building consent had also been withdrawn. In fact it is still current, and this story has been updated accordingly. Regular readers will be aware that no listed building consent exists for the various works carried out to the building since 2015, some of which, according to our expert advice, could cause significant long-term damage to the fabric of the building. The Action Group is seeking advice on next steps.

Vital stage in battle to save The Cabinet lies

ahead

We know many supporters were disappointed with the news that that the Council had decided not to take action for breach of the planning enforcement notice that was supposed to prevent the continued unlawful use of The Cabinet as a house. The Action Group was not convinced by the reasons given by the Council for the decision. However, what is clear from the reasoning is that if the current "pub" - in fact an Indian takeaway in a small part of the building - were to close, continued use of the building as a residence could lead to prosecution in the criminal courts. Importantly, it was also made clear that the decision was entirely separate from the question of the current applications for planning and listed buildings consent. Let's be clear. This campaign is not over. Far from it. In fact, an existential battle, one that will determine the future of The Cabinet as a pub, lies ahead. The owner has applied for planning permission to subdivide the premises, treating the larger, two- storey section as his house, and the smaller section as a "pub". Many supporters have submitted written objections to this proposal - thank you. One of the questions raised was whether the Indian takeaway is actually a "pub" for planning purposes. But we need to focus on the bigger picture. That application, together with the associated application for listed building consent, must be refused in order to maintain The Cabinet’s status as a pub. Two years ago, the owner argued before a 3-day public inquiry that the planning inspector should allow him retrospective permission to turn the whole of the building permanently into a house because it was not viable as a pub. Viability is important because it's one of the few reasons for turning pubs into houses allowed under national and local planning policy. The planning inspector found The Cabinet could indeed be viable. Now the owner expects us to believe he thinks that a “pub” on the site less than half the size, with a maximum of just 50 people allowed on the premises, could be viable. It’s simply not credible. We fully expect that (contrary to the owner’s public protestations), if planning permission were to be granted the restaurant would close after a short time and the last section of the premises would become part of the house. It's an obvious ploy and a common one, known among planning experts as a "Trojan horse". It’s inevitable that if this application is granted Reed would have lost its last pub forever. We need to continue to pull together as a community to do everything we can to prevent that happening. We have every confidence that the Council will see this ruse for what it is. We'll keep you up to date with news as we receive it. But we don't expect a decision before October.

Council to take no action on enforcement

notice

We have learned that North Herts District Council have decided not to take action under the enforcement notice, which was supposed to prevent The Cabinet being used unlawfully as a residence. The email announcing the decision states that following a site inspection planning officers have concluded that the current residential use of The Cabinet is incidental to the running of the “Spice Cabinet” restaurant and takeaway. The officer also states that the enforcement notice continues in force and that any residential use that is not incidental to the authorised use would be a criminal matter. They also assert that this finding does not affect the current applications for planning and listed building consent. It seems clear that the planning officers have had the wool pulled over their eyes. It is evident to anybody who cares to look that Mr Newman is continuing to use the main part of the building as his residence. His intentions are clear from the fact that he has applied for planning permission to subdivide the premises and treat the main part of them as a house In all the circumstances it is abundantly clear to us that the finding is misconceived and illogical. The Action Group will be seeking independent advice on the finding by NHDC before deciding on next steps. Meanwhile we need to keep our focus on the current planning applications which, if granted, would almost certainly mean the permanent loss of the pub to the village. We understand these will not be determined before October. __________________________________ More news stories in News Archive