The national Planning Inspectorate has recently upheld an appeal against the second (2020) Sheffield City Council (SCC) planning decision to refuse the demolition of the Plough Inn (Sandygate Road, Crosspool, Sheffield). As the local Community Group puts it:
‘It’s time to say goodbye to the Plough. The Planning Inspector has upheld Spacepad’s appeal, and the pub will now be demolished, and the site redeveloped. The Planning Inspector reached the conclusion that there was no realistic prospect of the pub reopening. It is a sad ending for our campaign, but we feel we did everything we could to save this piece of Sheffield’s heritage. We would like to thank everyone who supported our campaign over the years.’
The Inspector has accepted that the pub is not a viable commercial proposition, that it has been properly marketed and that there are suitable alternatives close enough by. Both the local Community Group and CAMRA Sheffield & District believes that all these judgements are highly contentious.
This is the latest twist in a saga which commenced, almost a decade ago, when the previous owners, Enterprise Inns (Ei), decided to deliberately run-down their historically important asset before closure in 2015. Two years later, a planning application to SCC to turn the site into a branch of Sainsbury’s was rejected. The pub company then refused to sell to the Plough Community Benefit Society Ltd. (PCBS), a local Community Group and instead, sold to a property developer. They, in turn, allowed the condition of the building to deteriorate: there has been no serious maintenance work. Ei and the subsequent owners, Spacepad UK, left the pub to rot.
The site deteriorated to such an extent that it became the subject of a Planning Enforcement enquiry regarding unauthorised use as a waste disposal facility and a storage site for unregistered vehicles. It was Spacepad who, according to SCC Planning Enforcement, used the land ‘to store unwanted building materials, a caravan, a JCB type digger, a static cabin, trailers, pallets, a fork truck, vehicles, building and non-building materials and other paraphernalia.’ An Enforcement Notice was recommended.
The Planning Appeal Form completed by Spacepad, makes much of the poor condition of the building, blaming ‘vandalism, burglary and fly tipping.’ Many believe that this is a red herring: the current poor condition of the building and site is solely the fault of the owners. Planning law places responsibility for the condition of the site with the owner. By law, the building should have been maintained in a fit and proper condition for its permitted use as a public house: the owners have not carried out this legal obligation.
At the time of the purchase from Ei, an independent report, commissioned by PCBS 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. Currently, the Plough would require substantial refurbishment before it could be brought back into use. A figure of ~£450.000 is quoted in the Appellant Statement. The owners have failed to make this investment and have failed to reinstate the property.
Dave Pickersgill, Pub Protection Officer for CAMRA Sheffield & District states: ‘The recent planning application and the appeal documents do not provide any evidence to suggest the building 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. In 2019, average rents in this area were between £24,000 and £29,000. In addition, this planning application would see the Plough replaced by eight houses, none of which would be affordable housing.’
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 Asset of Community Value (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 have remained an overriding consideration in any decision.
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.
According to Historic England, about 3,000 pubs were built during the inter-war years. Very few survive. A recent study finding that inter-war pubs are under greater threat of disappearing than pubs of any other date.
In short, as this appeal was allowed, it implies:
- the Secretary of State ignores local community opinion
- if a developer allows a historic building to slowly decay: eventually, they will be given permission to demolish.
The covid pandemic has highlighted the importance of local community facilities and high streets, both of which contribute to supporting vibrant, successful and sustainable communities. The Plough, ran as a community pub, could bring countless economic and social benefits to the area. It also has the added attraction of its key place in the history of world football – it is adjacent to the site of the official first inter-club football game: Hallam v Sheffield at Sandygate (26 December 1860) and has played a part in the development of football. A small internal museum would not have been inappropriate.
|1695||The Plough opens as a public house|
|1897||Tennant Brothers acquire the lease to the Plough and the adjacent sports ground|
|1929||The Plough Inn is rebuilt|
|1969||The lease is assigned to Whitbread who become Patron of Hallam FC|
|2003||Enterprise Inns acquire the pub|
|2015||Closure of The Plough Inn by Enterprise Inns (Ei)|
|2015||The Plough Inn achieves ACV status|
|2017||Planning application from Ei to replace the building by a mini-supermarket is refused by SCC|
|2017||Ei refuse to sell the pub to a local Community group, instead selling to a property company, Spacepad|
|2018||The Plough Inn achieves ACV status for the second time|
|2020||Planning application from Spacepad to demolish and replace by flats, is refused by SCC|
|2021||An appeal by Spacepad to the planning refusal is upheld by Planning Inspectorate|