Uncertain future for The Flying Pig pub in Cambridge as landlords given six months to leave
The landlords of the much-loved Flying Pig in Cambridge have spoken of their devastation after the developer that owns the building gave them notice to leave, leaving the future of the pub in doubt.
Justine and Matt Hatfield, who have run the pub for the past 24 years, have confirmed that developer Pace Investments have told them they have to move out in six months.
In March, the family hoped the pub would be saved after Cambridge City Council rejected Pace Investments’ plans to redevelop it as part of a scheme creating new offices on the Hills Road site. But that hope was short-lived.
The company has a previous planning permission in place that would allow it to demolish the pub, which is famed for its live music.
Johnny Vincent, CEO of Pace Investments, said he was “disappointed” councillors had turned down the latest plans, which would have “seen the pub retained forever”, albeit with changes to its layout and space.
He told the Cambridge Independent he now has two options: knock it down and build the consented scheme, including a different pub/bar, or appeal the council’s decision.
Justine, who said the lease was due to run out in June 2022, said: “We are just devastated. My first response was to ask for at least a year because we have two kids, who are 13 and 14, and we have to find a new home and relocate the kids in such a short time. They don't want to change schools. But they said no.
“We have been here 24 years. It's too much to try and deal with, it's just so sad. We have created something really special at the Flying Pig and I don't know why anyone wouldn’t want to keep that going. We certainly don’t need more offices.
“We got married here in the garden and there are so many memories here. But the loss of the live music is going to be so hard - that’s what we live for, that’s what it is all about.
“Every night with live music will be so poignant now because we know what we are losing.
“We were told about this five weeks ago but just couldn’t bring ourselves to talk about it until now because we were in such shock.
“All of our customers and musicians have been so kind and supportive to us. We have put on 100 garden sessions since the start of the pandemic, trying to keep local musicians working.
“We had to keep the hope alive and never let ourselves think this would actually happen. I’d still like to think that the developer might change his mind.
“We don’t know what the future holds for us now. We have to find a new home first before we can think about anything else.”
In a message to their supporters on Facebook, the couple signed off: “sorry we couldn’t keep the Pig flying.”
Pace Investments applied for planning permission to build an office development with restaurants and cafes behind the pub.
The proposals included the demolition of Betjeman House, Broadcasting House, Ortona House, Francis House, and the rear multi-storey car park to Francis House, and the construction of two new commercial buildings of five and seven storeys.
They also included a plan to preserve and modify The Flying Pig, which would have led to the existing toilets and kitchen being demolished.
The proposal had been recommended for approval by planning officers, who said the development would provide “additional employment floorspace in a location where there is strong demand and which results in a significant benefit to jobs in Cambridgeshire”.
But councillors rejected it, mentioning the scale and massing of the buildings, which would be next to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, and the impact on the viability of the pub.
Mr Vincent said he was “currently considering both options” - implementing the scheme that already has consent, which would “mean demolition, and a new pub/bar within a new building” or appealing the council’s decision which, if successful, “would enable the pub to be preserved as it is”.
Either way, the landlords who have run the pub will have left.
Mr Vincent told the Cambridge Independent: “I am also very disappointed. Our plans to regenerate the estate and preserve the pub have been refused.
“During the past nine years I have ensured the pub remained open for as long as possible - prior to any redevelopment, and was able to reopen as soon as possible, post development.
“I have owned parts of this site since 1996 and the Flying Pig since 2012. When the previous lease expired in 2017, I explained to Matt and Justine Hatfield that the estate was to be redeveloped in the near future.
“They were keen to stay on, so rather than leave the pub vacant for a time, we agreed a new lease on the understanding that either party could bring it to an end on six months’ notice.
“Notice has now been served, which sees the lease end in October 2021, so that the site can be regenerated.
“The estate has the benefit of an existing planning consent, which includes the demolition of the Flying Pig pub.”
He said he had been working for two years on a scheme that aimed for an ‘Outstanding’ rating under the BREEAM sustainability scheme, featuring “sustainable offices, cafes and restaurants, together with improved areas of public realm and landscaping along Hills Road”.
He added: “After extensive public consultations, including with pub patrons, I was persuaded that the new scheme design should include the preservation and retention of the Flying Pig public house.
“The scheme would have seen the pub retained forever, on a campus of sustainable modern office space.
“The planning application was submitted in August 2020 and was supported by Cambridge City Council planning department, Historic England and many other stakeholders.
“Disappointingly, the proposals were refused by the planning committee in March 2021. I had hoped we would be able to enhance the pub and to provide for its long-term future as a wonderful ‘real ale and music venue with its garden and family accommodation’.
“I am sad that this opportunity has been taken away from us.”
He added: “Realistically I am left with two options - to implement the existing planning permission, or to appeal the committee’s decision.
“If we implement the consented scheme, that would mean demolition, and a new pub/bar within a new building. If we appeal, and are successful – that would enable the pub to be preserved as it is.
“The existing office buildings on the site are now dated and occupiers are leaving. This is an important site for Cambridge and its economy, so something needs to happen sooner rather than later.
“In the office market, we are seeing a trend as employers start to encourage staff back to the office - they need offices to be top quality, with all the modern facilities and supporting uses, eg cafes/restaurants/bars/health and fitness provisions, electric vehicle charging, outstanding cycle facilities etc, to encourage staff back to the workplace.
“Sustainability, wellness, outside work areas and opening windows are all top of the agenda.”
If the pub is to be knocked down, Justine said she could “not bear to watch”.
“We won’t be anywhere near when that happens,” she said.
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