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Speech to Save The Royal Hunt Pub in 2020


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful for being permitted to speak today about this 3rd planning application to demolish the Royal Hunt Pub and grateful that Winkfield Parish Council recommended to Bracknell Forest that the previous 2 applications should be refused. There were 300 letters objecting to those applications. I stood here in August 2017 and July 2018 and made speeches about those planning applications which were eventually refused because of adverse impact on Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area and on protected trees which make an important contribution to the landscape character and appearance of the area.

Although it is only 2 weeks since notification letters arrived on local doormats, 40 objection letters have already been submitted.

The new planning application claims to respect the RPA of oak tree T7, but has not provided sufficient parking for residents of 9 apartments. Parents and children already have their health and safety put at risk by frustrated motorists during the school run. Additional parked cars in New Road will only increase the incidents of damage to parked cars.

The "Royal Hunt" and a Hertford pub called "The Bridge House" were both closed in 2015. A Planning application to demolish The Bridge House was refused by East Herts Council because The proposed development would contradict a "Loss of Community Facilities" policy in the draft East Herts District Plan and Paragraph 70 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Bracknell Forest Core Strategy 21 states "Planning applications involving the loss by redevelopment or change of use of retail units that perform an important community role will only be allowed if they do not conflict with other elements of this strategy".

The East Herts Council decision is a precedent which justifies me talking about a "Loss of Community Facilities" in the context of this planning meeting.

Before the Gold Cup and Cranbourne Tower were demolished, they performed an important community role. If The Royal Hunt gets re-opened as a pub, it can also perform a community role, which is even more important because it is the only pub remaining in the 3 mile bus route from Heatherwood Roundabout, along London Rd, Fernbank Rd, New Rd, Forest Rd and Hatchet Lane.

When Ascot Racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, the Royal Hunt Pub was already a popular drinking establishment for royal huntsmen.

Local resident Carole Tuckett told me that her mother-in-law's father, Grandad Shepherd was running the Royal Hunt Pub in the early 1900's. Nellie and Jock took over and remained the publicans until Nellie died. Then a lovely landlady called Pearl ran the pub with her husband. Carole Tuckett's husband's family ran the pub from 1937 to the early 1970's.

In 1994 Carole Holroyd became the publican at The Royal Hunt. Carole increased the pub's right to be called an Asset of Community Value. The Royal Hunt Darts Team and the Royal Hunt Golf Society were 2 reasons. The original Ascot Ale Festival was run by Royal Hunt patrons. £5000 was donated to local charities at the Queens Golden Jubilee celebrated in the garden of the Royal Hunt. Ascot Trafalgar 200 celebrations were organised by Royal Hunt patrons and raised thousands more for charity. My wife and I also moved to North Ascot in 1994 and became acquainted with locals at these community events.

In 2015 Hawthorne Leisure purchased the Royal Hunt Pub for about £180,000, then closed the pub.

On behalf of CAMRA Berkshire South-east, an Asset of Community Value nomination was submitted by Winkfield Parish Council in 2015. This was successful. A subsequent appeal by Hawthorn Leisure failed in a Tribunal in June 2016. High Court Judge Peter Lane stated "I find that the evidence shows on balance that it is realistic to think that there is a time in the next five years when the Royal Hunt could resume its role as a community pub".

In 2016 Local Ward Councillors instigated a 'Save the Royal Hunt' petition. 352 signatures were collected.

A local white knight investor also made enquiries about purchasing the Royal Hunt Pub. He approached councillors and Savills estate agents. He was fobbed off with unhelpful remarks by Savills and the BFC Legal Department. Savills told him that it was their intention to sell the pub after the ACV had been removed.

In July 2016 Hawthorne Leisure notified BFC that they wish to dispose of the Royal Hunt Pub. Under the Localism Act & Regulations Moratorium rules, the disposal notice should have triggered a 6-week moratorium in which a community group has the opportunity to express interest in making a bid to purchase the pub.

On 2nd August 2016 The BFC Solicitor had a meeting with Winkfield Parish Council who then wrote to the BFC solicitor confirming that they did not wish to pursue the matter further.

Although CAMRA had asked Winkfield Parish for help and the borough solicitor had written to CAMRA acknowledging CAMRA's nomination, CAMRA were not invited or informed of the disposal notice.

Because CAMRA and the white knight investor were denied the opportunity to express interest, this shameful dereliction of duty led housing developers to the mistaken impression that there was no interest from the local community. This had the predictable effect on the market value of a pub.

In 2017 the Royal Hunt was sold to Patrick Ruddy Homes for over £800,000, more than 4 times the price that Hawthorn Leisure had paid!

Nothing has really changed since that opinion was given by Judge Peter Lane, except that the Royal Hunt Pub Community Group has been gathering pledges in support of an ACV nomination, in order to put themselves in a position to make a bid if the property were to be put on the market under the Localism Act Moratorium Rules.

The group has 127 members. In January a new member raised the total pledged to £241,330.00. This could be made available to fund a freehold purchase. Additional funding can also be raised using a community share issue, grants from the Plunkett Foundation and other organisations actively supporting many community buy-outs.

A letter from BFC Treasurer formed the basis of the pub's second removal from the ACV Register in 2018. He wrote about "Unsuccessful attempts to attract a purchaser". This is hardly surprising when BFC failed to inform ACV nominator CAMRA of Hawthorn Leisure's disposal notice and hardly surprising when the site was being headlined by Savills as a "development/investment opportunity". In September 2016 their Marketing Report makes no mention of the site's listing as an ACV, or Judge Peter Lane's opinion.

The BFC website only displays 2 pubs in search results for the "Community right to bid" The Squirrels and The Royal Hunt Pub. BFC's failure to show other pubs that have been through this process (for example The Rose and Crown, Sandhurst) demonstrates BFC's attitude to "The Community Right to Bid" enshrined in the Localism Act.

There are 3 pre-conditions necessary for the "Community Right To Bid" to be exercised.

  1. The pub is a registered ACV
  2. The owner issues a disposal notice to BFC
  3. The original ACV nominator is informed of the disposal notice.
Those pre-conditions have never been met, which is why there has never been a formal community offer to buy the pub.

A viability report was attached to the 2nd planning application called the Fleurets Review which conceded "I do consider that the sales particulars Savills produced and circulated were not conducive to enticing interest from the public sector."

If profit alone is allowed to dominate, then there is no point in having planning regulations and no point in the Localism Act "Community Right to Bid".

Summary

BFC should refuse this planning application
  1. because of the impact on protected trees and on the traffic congestion reaching breaking point during the school run.
  2. because removal from the ACV register ignored High Court judicial authority.
  3. because demolition would involve the loss of a community facility, contrary to the NPPF and BFC Core Strategy 21
  4. the 3 pre-conditions necessary for the "Community Right to Bid" have never been tested