SPPC Newsletter - February 2018
It has been ten years since the Cock Public House in Stocking Pelham was destroyed by fire in February 2008. Four years later East Herts Council approved a planning application (3/10/1583/OP) which offered a way forward; the construction of a replacement pub to be made possible by allowing 'enabling development' in the form the of two residential houses on the site. A Section 106 covenant specified that the new pub should be put into an 'operational state' before both houses were occupied.
The publican who owned the pub at the time of the fire then sold the site to a property development company. Construction began in 2014.
Since 2015, one of the two houses has been sold and the other is occupied by tenants. The newly-built pub has been granted a licence and is considered to be 'in an operational state' even though a considerable amount of interior and external work needs to be undertaken before it can realistically open as a pub. Despite this, the Cock has been advertised for sale at a price that is well above the market value. Offers have been made that are below the asking price but these have been rejected. As a result, the property has remained unsold for more than 3 years. The site is derelict and in a state of neglect, making it even less attractive potential buyers.
In August 2016, the owner of the site made an application for change of use (3/16/1659/FUL); to turn the vacant public house into a 5-bedroom residential property, on the grounds that a pub business was no longer viable at the location.
Stocking Pelham Parish Council issued strong objections to this proposal and employed a consultant to expose the flaws in the developer's claims that a pub in the village would not be viable. Over 100 letters of objection were sent to East Herts Council by village residents and by people living in neighbouring villages. Many cited the impact of the loss of a community facility in a rural location, which will be further accentuated by the increased levels of housing in the area.
East Herts Council also commissioned an independent report by an industry specialist and this confirmed the potential future viability of the Cock Public House. The subsequent decision taken by East Herts Council in October 2017 to refuse planning permission for change of use to residential has been welcomed by the Parish Council and by the residents in the area. The reasons given by the Planning Officers are in keeping with the views held by the local community - that the loss of a local facility that contributes to social cohesion would be detrimental to the well-being of those living in the vicinity.
There is active interest among local residents in the possibility of shared ownership/management of a village pub. This could become a reality if the pub were to be on the market at a reasonable price.
In December 2017, Stocking Pelham Parish Council were notified of a second planning application (3/17/2792/FUL), for change of use from vacant pub to a shop and 4 dwellings. The Parish Council is objecting to this application on the grounds that it does not restore a pub to the village and that a shop would be unsustainable because the village already has local access to provisions.
In January 2018, it was confirmed that the owner of the site has lodged a formal appeal against the decision, by East Herts Council, to refuse the application for change of use to a 5-bed dwelling. The Parish Council, with the support of local community, is lobbying for the refusal to be upheld by the Planning Inspectorate.
Stocking Pelham Parish Council have been advised (by a planning for pubs expert) to nominate the Cock Inn as an Asset of Community Value. A successful listing of the pub as an ACV will be a material consideration in planning decisions.
Looking forward, the many strong objections by members of the local community (including neighbouring villages) to the applications for change of use to residential or to residential/shop has strengthened the determination of Stocking Pelham Parish Council to remain firmly committed to the re-instatement of the Cock Public House, however long it takes.