History of the campaign
Community meeting regarding the future of The Bull
Please read the presentation prepared by the Save the Bull group that was screened before the meeting on Thursday 12th January 2017.
Villagers feeling “Bullish” about local pub plans
Over 100 people braved the onset of arctic conditions to attend a public meeting about the future of The Bull Public House in Bellingdon this week. The Bull, which closed as a pub in 2009, is currently owned by the Matthews family and, at present, hosts a children’s daycare facility – The Village Nursery.
The meeting, arranged by the “Save the Bull” group, gave interested parties the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the current owner, the architect who has drawn up the plans, and nursery manager.
The plans, presented by Jane Duncan of Jane Duncan Architects & Interiors (whose experience includes many community-led projects such as the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted), envisage the building of a separate nursery and the reinstatement of the public house with the addition of a restaurant. The pub kitchen could also provide appropriate food for the nursery setting.
The nursery building itself – designed by internationally renowned architect Gernot Minke and the first of its kind in the UK – will be an octagonal “green roof” building with walls of locally manufactured bricks and locally grown timber. The current frontage of the pub will be retained, and a restaurant added at the rear of the existing building. There are plans for an organic vegetable garden, which could provide ingredients for the pub kitchen.
Local residents were encouraged at the prospect of having their local pub back after such a long absence, but raised concerns about additional traffic flows and parking provision. The architects promised to look in detail at the traffic plan when submitting their proposals.
On the question of whether the whole project (which is due to happen in two phases with the new nursery being built first) would definitely continue once the nursery had been built, Jim Matthews said he was happy to sign a legal commitment to complete the pub renovation as well – and this will be worked into the planning application.
Jim hopes that by having the kitchen of the pub set up to provide food for the nursery, any prospective landlord would have their basic costs covered, making tenancy an attractive proposition. Currently the nursery children bring packed lunches but 95% of the parents surveyed were in favour of having hot lunches provided.
The potential of a village shop has been considered but is not within the scope of the current plans. However, it is still a possibility for the future.
Councillor Nick Rose was not able to attend the meeting but sent a statement to be read out, in which he said “I would very much like to see The Bull re-open as a pub. Currently there is a well supported community use as a children’s nursery facility and the proposals to refurbish and re-open the pub are very interesting.” Councillor Rose also urged residents to write or email with their views as and when the proposals are submitted to Chiltern District Council’s Planning Committee.
History of the campaign 2008-16
Having failed to get planning permission for a change of use, the owners (A Pubco) sell The Bull to Fortitude Investments, a property company.
The sitting landlord leaves to re-open The Blue Ball at Asheridge and The Bull closes pending a decision on its future.
New plans for large scale development are shown to villagers which the very large majority consider to be wholly inappropriate to the site. These plans are, nevertheless, submitted and subsequently rejected by the local planning authority.
Under a misapprehension that the village is completely against any changes, Fortitude apply for permission to convert the pub to a private dwelling at which time and at very short notice, locals are invited to the pub on a Saturday morning for a press call to demonstrate support for the business. Subsequently, a public meeting is arranged by a group of villagers, styling themselves the ‘Save The Bull’ (STB) group to seek a consensus of local opinion and are given a mandate to represent the majority view of the community.
The STB group contacts the owners and are eventually successful in establishing a cooperative relationship which leads to new plans being drawn up to which the group are invited to contribute. Meanwhile, at the suggestion of the group, a former local publican re-opens the pub on a month-by- month basis at a peppercorn rent and proceeds to re-establish the business as a going concern.
A second public meeting is held at which the new plans are presented and residents’ questions answered.
The new plans are submitted with great support of the residents and duly passed.
For unassociated legal reasons, the temporary landlady has to vacate The Bull and the pub closes again.
Fortitude make efforts to find a suitable tenant to take on the business when the new plans have been implemented but without success and due to the increasingly difficult business climate are forced to put the pub back on the market.
Matthews Brickworks purchase the business together with approximately 15 acres with a view to extracting clay from the land for their principal business and reopening the pub but, realising that the building, by now having stood empty for some time and having been extensively vandalised, requires a very large capital investment, plan to open it on a short term basis to house a local children’s nursery that is looking for suitable premises. This is intended to provide an income to pay both for any short term remedial work needed to make the building safe and business practical and to provide seed corn for the eventual reopening of the pub. These plans are made available to local residents to consider at an open morning at the pub. The STB group offered no opinion on these plans but subsequently suggest that locals contact the planning authorities with their individual views if they wished to comment.
Following representations from the STB group, The Bull is listed as a Community Asset. This means that should the Matthews ever try to sell the pub they have to offer it on a first right of refusal to the village to purchase.
The latest plans are rejected by the local authority and go to appeal. The appeal is upheld subject to the condition that after three years, the building must revert to its previous use as a public house.
Jim Mathews contacts the STB group to seek views on new plans for the future of The Bull. Following a meeting with him to discuss these plans the group agree that they offer the best chance for the future of The Bull and it is agreed that the group arrange a public meeting to present these plans and seek the support of the community.
12th Jan 2017
Planned date for the village meeting.