Fenland Council tosses it ‘hands off’ policy aside as councillors vote to allow demolition of Whittlesey pub and replacement with flats

Replacing Bricklayers with housing proposed by McCarthy & Stone

Replacing Bricklayers with housing proposed by McCarthy & Stone - Credit: Archant

Fenland Council threw its ‘hand off’ policy to the wind as it agreed to allow an empty Whittlesey pub to be demolished to make way for 35 retirement flats.

Part of the application by McCarthy & Stone for Whittlesey showing street scene around Bricklayers

Part of the application by McCarthy & Stone for Whittlesey showing street scene around Bricklayers - Credit: Archant

McCarthy & Stone looked to be facing an uphill battle to persuade Fenland District Council to allow them to build the flats on the site of the Bricklayers, Station Road.

But the planning committee of Fenland Council backed the town council – and rejected their officers’ view- and allowed it.

Councillors felt re-using an underdeveloped site trumped any impact on the conservation area.

They also agreed that a tree can come down – it was in poor health and there was no reason to retain it, said councillors.

The Ship Inn at Purls Bridge, Manea.

The Ship Inn at Purls Bridge, Manea. - Credit: Archant

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Officers had earlier reminded councillors of a presumption in favour of retaining local pubs.

In recent years the council has refused to allow change of use to the Ship at Purls Bridge near Manea and to the Black Hart at Thorney Toll.

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In each instance the council believes both could continue as a pub.

The same battle looked likely in Whittlesey following closure of the Bricklayers, poor trade being blamed on under investment and the opening of Wetherspoons.

Rose Project at Thorney Toll.

Rose Project at Thorney Toll. - Credit: Archant

Mark Wright, managing director of McCarthy & Stone, wrote to the town council following a public exhibition and claimed support from 92 per cent of the 850 who attended.

He said comparable schemes by his company showed a typical £670,000 spend per year by those moving in – with 80 per cent of that likely to be spent in local shops and on local services.

David Beardmore, a consultant employed by McCarthy & Stone, told the council that the building as a pub was no longer an option.

He said there would be insurmountable problems faced by any new owner if they wanted to make it a feasible and economically viable proposition.

“It is therefore felt that the case for redevelopment is overwhelming and there is no credible possibility – or indeed the heritage imperative- of retaining the existing building,” he said.

Planners felt the Bricklayers “makes a positive contribution to the form and character of the area. Its loss would cause harm to the historic environment and the character in general.”

Officers also argued the loss of the pub “has not been justified” and McCarthy & Stone’s plans would fail to conserve and enhance the conservation area.

They also argued “public benefits of the scheme do not outweigh the identified harm”.

Whittlesey Town Council supported the idea but Historic England says it lacks “integrity”.

Six people have objected plan and five have supported it saying it is “preferable to the visual appearance of the current building” and will address the local need for elderly housing.

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