The Flying Pig pub: campaigners urge locals to make their views known at consultation
Regulars at an historic Cambridge pub fear their favourite boozer could be demolished if plans for an office development go ahead.
The Flying Pig pub on Hills Road dates back to the 1840s and is a popular live music venue that has welcomed many local musicians through the doors including Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett.
Developers Pace Investments are holding a consultation tomorrow (Thursday) and on Saturday about plans for the site, which include moving the pub, but so far more than 12,000 people have signed a petition to save the pub from being pulled down or relocated.
Musician Fabian Bonner, who regularly sings and plays bass at the Flying Pig in his band The Sure-Can Playboys, says: “For music lovers, it’s one of those places where the history is soaked into the walls. Once you knock it down you are never going to have that again.
“I’ve been drinking and playing in bands here since 1991 and there has grown up a very tight community of regulars. Just like back in the days of Cheers - everybody knows your name, they are always glad you came.
“The idea of having a concrete shoebox buried under offices called the Flying Pig does not do justice it and wouldn’t be worthy of the name - because it has nothing to do with the history of the place at all.”
The pub stands in the middle of a plot from 104 to 112 Hills Road, next to the Botanic Gardens, that developers want to turn into offices and retail space. Planning permission was granted for a 'mixed-used scheme' on the site in 2008 and now developers say they want a 'forward-thinking office scheme' to be built on the site built to outstanding sustainability standards.
Simon Stone, a consultant representing the developers, said they “envisage layers of occupation. There might be the corporates and tech people, big established companies at the top; on lower floors there might be incubator space, co-working space and cafes and bars open to the public.”
He explained that Johnny Vincent, who owns Pace Investments, had been to see his tenants, adding: “They have an agreement they will work with us to move the pub or relocate the pub on site, a contractual agreement.
“They are rather attached to the bricks and mortar they sit in. But we think it is them that created the Flying Pig, so if you move it 30 metres they will still have their clientele. Some people might not even notice they have moved building.
“If we design a scheme that wraps around it, that can be done but the pub would have to shut during the development. They couldn’t live there. And if it closes for two to three years we think it won’t survive. We think that is what would kill it.”
He added that eventually they wanted to create a below street level music venue and a separate bar within the development, which could be called the Flying Pig. “We see it as exactly the sort of ground floor interesting retail that we want in the development."
Flying Pig landlord Matt Hatfield has lived and worked at the pub for 21 years with his wife, Justine, and is a tenant of Pace Investments. He said: “We are looking at the future plans for the Flying Pig and will come to a decision that will be best for us, our family and our community.”
Neil Toolin, who started the petition, wrote: "Why would you want to knock it down? You should be wanting to promote it as your key to the whole development. Make the Pig a central focus of the office development, promote it as a long-standing cultural institution, one that is important to Cambridge and its national and international visitors to say nothing of the local community in and around Cambridgeshire.
"If the developer were to do that then everybody would get behind him and help him to achieve commercial success for the new office development."
The public consultation, where plans for the scheme will be shared, will be at Betjeman House, 104 Hills Road, on Thursday June 27 at 5pm and on Saturday June 29 at 10am.