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Campaigners hoping to save the Flying Pig pub when the plot it stands on is redeveloped have called for people to respond to the new plans submitted to Cambridge City Council.

Pace Investments, which owns the site on Hills Road, wants to build a seven-storey office and retail development behind the pub, which would mean part of the historic building is demolished.

Musicians and regulars have warned that any loss of seating space in the pub or its garden could mean financial trouble for the venue, especially now customer numbers must be reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Fabian Bonner, who often performs at the Flying Pig , told the Cambridge Independent: “The Flying Pig is still very much at risk , even with the changes that the developer has made. There won’t be enough room inside the pub to make putting on live music - the reason why it is such an attraction in Cambridge - a viable business option.

Fabian Bonner, musician and regular at the Flying Pig. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Fabian Bonner, musician and regular at the Flying Pig. Picture: Keith Heppell.

“The extra space that has been added to the back of the front bar does not make up for the loss of the current back room. The new space has several new doors which need to be accessed from it, making additional table space very limited. Every table is vital in a pub this small. Storage space is also being lost. The whole of the single storey brick storage area which extends from the back of the pub almost to the end of the existing garden has been suspiciously omitted from the Flying Pig ‘Demolition and Retention’ document.

“Covid-19 has made space inside pubs and their gardens even more important. Pubs need big gardens and good ventilation, and city firms are moving more towards home working. Community pubs have become more important, offices far less so. The scale of the development is still vastly out of keeping with the area.

“There is still no plan as to how the business will survive if it has to close for the demolition or alterations to take place. There is still a simple solution - push the over-sized office block back by a few metres, preserve the pub building in full and let The Flying Pig continue as it is.

The Flying Pig pub on Hills Road, Cambridge..Pic - Richard Marsham. (41741647)
The Flying Pig pub on Hills Road, Cambridge..Pic - Richard Marsham. (41741647)

“Support from the public and from some councillors has pushed the developer back a little at every consultation so far. We’re asking people to keep up the pressure now we’re at the planning stage, and register and comment on the planning site.”

According to the developers, the pub has been saved and will be an important part of the scheme. Plans for the 2.5-acre site will see the creation of a new workplace destination for Cambridge, with cafés, restaurants and other community and amenity spaces. So far 44 comments have been received on the council’s planning website, all of them objections.

Flying pig consultation, Betjeman House, Jonathan Vincent from Pace Investments Ltd. Picture: Keith Heppell. (41741633)
Flying pig consultation, Betjeman House, Jonathan Vincent from Pace Investments Ltd. Picture: Keith Heppell. (41741633)

Jonathan Vincent, managing director of Pace Investments, said: “The Flying Pig will absolutely be a viable business, 100 per cent. In fact, it is probably even more viable than before because you will have a much larger customer base on the back doorstep with the new offices. More people will mean more lunches and more pints being drunk.

“We have made a lot of changes to the plans for the Flying Pig. The first idea was to completely relocate the pub but people said it was the bricks and mortar of the building that was important to the atmosphere, so we took that on board and made a scheme to achieve that. The Flying Pig has been saved - it’s amazing. Most people would have just closed it and then put in a planning application that included demolishing it, but I decided from a community point of view, and personally, to work around it.

“We are still providing a three-bedroom flat upstairs and a garden. Some people would like nothing to change at all but that's not reality. The pub itself is in an awful condition at the rear so in order to integrate it into the scheme we have preserved it forever. I feel rather saddened people are not celebrating and saying what a fantastic result.”

Asked whether a new office block was needed at a time when most people are working from home, he added: “Everyone would agree the impact on the way we work and live has changed. But I think I could convincingly argue that more office space will be needed in the future, but it will be used in a different way. I think people may work half the time from home but still use an office building as a place for meeting colleagues and collaboration. I don't think Covid will snuff out the entrepreneurial spirit of Cambridge.”

To comment on the application, visit https://applications.greatercambridgeplanning.org/online-applications/ . The reference is 20/03429/FUL.

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