Plough saga continues

The application to demolish the Plough goes to SCC Planning Committee on Tuesday 4 August. This is the latest twist in a saga which commenced when the previous owners, Enterprise Inns (Ei), decided to deliberately run-down their historically important asset before closure in 2015. Two years later, an application to turn the site into a branch of Sainsburys was refused. The pub company then refused to sell to a local Community Group and instead, sold to a property developer. They, in turn, have allowed the condition of the building to deteriorate: there has been no serious maintenance work. Ei and the subsequent owners, Spacepad UK, have simply left the pub to rot. Planning law places responsibility for the condition of the site with the current owner. By law, the building should have been maintained in a fit and proper condition for its current permitted use as a public house. The site deteriorated to such an extent that it became the subject of a Planning Enforcement enquiry regarding the unauthorised use of the site as a waste disposal facility and a storage site for unregistered vehicles. An Enforcement Notice was recommended. SCC should issue a requirement for the building, and site, to be reinstated to the condition it was in at the time of purchase from Ei. At that point, an independent report, commissioned by the Plough Community Benefit Society Ltd., demonstrated that, for the pub to reopen, no major building work was required and that internal refitting costs were manageable within a realistic business plan. The owners have failed to reinstate the property. Hence, the Council should exercise its power to compulsorily purchase in order to avoid further deterioration. The application to demolish the Plough does not provide any evidence to suggest that it is not viable as a public house. The developer states that no offers were received to lease the pub. This was because it was offered for a completely unrealistic rent of £50,000 pa. Average rents in this area are between £24,000 and £29,000. This planning application would see the Plough replaced by eight houses on the site, none of which would be affordable for local people. The Plough was rebuilt in 1929 and is an important example of an inter war public house which, according to Historic England, are ‘rare and overlooked buildings’. National planning policy recognises the importance of protecting historic assets and their ‘setting’. This was confirmed in the decision of the local authority to refuse the application from Sainsbury’s. The recent planning history of a site is also a relevant consideration in planning decisions. In 2017, the local authority rejected Sainsbury’s application for change of use based on the Plough’s listing as an ACV and it accepted that there were no alternative community facilities within a reasonable distance. In 2018, following the sale of the Plough, the local authority re-listed the pub as an ACV. As there have been no material changes in the reasons why the Plough was listed as an ACV, this should remain an overriding consideration in any decision. There are 214 public comments regarding this planning application: 205 are against the proposal. However, SCC Planning Officials are recommending that demolition goes ahead. If the Planning Committee accepts this recommendation, it sets a dangerous precedent: all a developer needs to do is allow a building to slowly fall-down, and, eventually, SCC will give permission to demolish. As previously stated we believe that the Plough should be functioning as a community pub, with the added attraction of its key place in the history of world football. A small internal museum would not be inappropriate. Dave Pickersgill

One thought on “Plough saga continues

  1. SCC Planning Committee – Tuesday 4th.August 2020
    Item 7 a) Application No. 19/02130/FUL – The Plough Inn, 288 Sandygate Road, Sheffield, S10 5SE
    (demolition and replacement by eight dwellings)

    Voting by councillors was 5-5 – a tie. The chair used their casting vote
    The Planning Committee went against the Officers recommendation and rejected this application.
    At the start of the meeting, there had been 217 public comments, 208 were against the proposal.
    The introduction from the Planning Officer included a mention of the suggestion from Sheffield and District CAMRA that SCC should consider the use of a Compulsory Purchase Order. A local councillor then spoke against the planning proposal including mentions of historical football heritage, ACV approvals and the attempted community buy-out.
    This was followed by Peter Duff from the ‘Save the Plough’ Group. He reminded the committee of ACV in July 2015, the change of use refused in 2017 and the ACV in 2018. He disputed that the pub had been realistically marketed and claimed that the required rent (£50k pa) was unrealistic when comparable properties have a rent considerably lower. [There was one rental bid for the pub (£45k) which fell through]. He also commented regarding the recent dilapidation of the building and the (May 2020) enforcement notice.
    One speaker for the application followed. The current applicant bought the property in 2017. The pub has been subject to vandalism, has been marketed to let and was previously marketed for sale. It was claimed that there is no historical heritage and that the development would be in keeping with the area. Appreciated that this is a difficult decision for councillors regarding the number of public comments and asked councillors to approve the application.
    The Planning Officer then responded to the comments made. She felt that the £50k rent request (‘offers in the region of’) was comparable to other properties (the Three Merry Lads, a free house which is considerably larger, was mentioned as a comparison). Councillors then posed questions to the Planning Officer before the vote. It was suggested that the neglect of the building was deliberate. Comments were made about an apparent lack of marketing, bin collection, the roof-line, the density of housing proposed for the site and the ACV listing. A refusal of this planning application would not provide a second opportunity for a community buy-out. The applicant could also appeal against a refusal. Councillors also commented that this was a difficult decision.

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