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Council refusal ‘straw that broke camel’s back’ for Cambridgeshire pub/café

Haddenham pub owners say they have wrestled with a series of unprecedented challenges

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A family is to close its country pub and café after being turned down for a building plot to provide “necessary capital injection to allow the business to continue for many years to come”. Ironically, East Cambridgeshire District Council told Chris Taylor and his family who run the Cherry Tree at Haddenham that if permission were given it could cause “significant and demonstrable harm” to the business.

“The proposal would result in a significant loss of garden space for the existing café/public house which has the potential to impact the ongoing viability to The Cherry Tree public house,” planners told them.

“The application has failed to provide appropriate evidence to demonstrate that the viability of the community facility will not be affected.”

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

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The Taylors had wanted to re-shape the pub car park to allow for a building plot for a 4-bedroom house with a new access to the café/bar and spent 18 months trying to gain consent.

But East Cambridgeshire District Council refused it on viability grounds and also claim the Taylors had “failed to demonstrated that the new access would not cause significantly detrimental impacts to highways safety”.

Planners felt “the proposed development would result in a benefit of an additional dwelling in the housing stock” but that was outweighed by “the significant and demonstrable harm that this scheme would result in to the community facility and highways safety”.

In a Facebook post the family says: “Taking account of the challenges referenced above (and common to all small businesses) we hoped that ECDC would take a pragmatic view and be doing all that they can to support local employers.

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“For us, this has proved not to be the case and has been the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Less than five months after being refused permission, the Taylors throw in the towel on Sunday.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the family has explained to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

“We should start by saying that over the last few years we have been overwhelmed with the kindness, loyalty and support of the local and wider community,” says their Facebook post.

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Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

“During our Cherry Tree journey, we have been lucky enough to meet and work with some incredible people and businesses, most of whom have become friends who we will truly miss seeing day to day”.

Since opening in October 2019, the Taylors say they have wrestled with a series of unprecedented challenges:

The Covid pandemic

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Huge cost of living increases

A major change in customers’ social habits

“And most pivotal to us, a family bereavement that has left us all devastated. It also resulted in an extended closure of the business, the impact of which, we have never really recovered from,” says their post.

But they emphasis they have worked hard to become a community hub and list some of the things they have provided.

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Midwifery advice clinic (free of charge)

During lockdown

– Milk, bread, egg & flour supplies, and delivery

– An outdoor Winter Fayre to support local traders

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– Pizza takeaway & delivery

A safe, supportive space for Mums and young families

The Chatty Table Scheme

Monthly Quiz nights

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Local Charity Events

Venue for:

o Crafting groups

o Weddings

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o Birthdays

o Wakes

o Christenings and Baby Showers

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o Fayres

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o Baby Ballet

o Wreath Making

o Baby / toddler groups

o Breakfast with Santa

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o Open Mic Nights

o Dog shows!

The post adds: “Throughout this period, we have continued to operate by subsidising the business from personal resources and savings. We did this as we really wanted The Cherry Tree to work and have loved being a part of our community.

“Over the past 18 months it has become increasingly obvious that this approach is not sustainable; even with the amazing support from our customers, family and friends.”

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Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

The Taylors say they have explored a range of options to enable us to continue.

These included:

Seeking external investment from interested locals. Despite a number of interested parties and financial commitments “-we didn’t get to the figure required”.

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Seeking an external buyer for the business and premises. “During the last 18 months we have had 4 ‘firm’ commitments for purchase. However, these have all fallen by the wayside – for a variety of reasons”.

Seeking planning approval for the development of the existing car park.

Their statement adds: “This development proposal included the creation of a new and improved tarmacked car park and much needed enhancements to the remaining outdoor space.

“The proposed sale of the development plot would have provided the necessary capital injection to allow the business to continue for many years to come.

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“Unfortunately, East Cambridgeshire District Council finally (after 18 months) rejected the application on grounds relating to their concerns for the ongoing viability of the business (with a reduced outdoor space).

“There was also an objection from Cambridgeshire highways – the details of which seem particularly nonsensical considering recent approvals granted in the village.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

“In summary, this lack of the required investment / capital injection into the business has meant that East Cambridgeshire DC, by their rejection of the application, have achieved exactly the opposite of what they stated as their concern, in the rationale for their decision.

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“This, despite our continued warnings that this would be the outcome.

“As a family, we have put our heart and soul (and considerable money) into The Cherry Tree and think we have provided a needed and much-loved community asset.

“We have built a great team of staff (and have employed more than 20 local people in full / part-time roles over the last 4 years) and feel truly sorry to now be saying goodbye to them. We hope they will all find new roles locally and wish them the best for the future.

“Finally, we need to thank all of our wonderful customers, suppliers, local businesses and employees for their support over the years – we certainly wouldn’t have made it so far without you”.

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Among three objections (there were five letters in support) to the Taylors planning application was that from Haddenham parish council.

They offered an opinion as far back as October 2022.

The parish council planning committee “resolved to recommend outright refusal for the application in its current form.

“Whilst recognising the community asset that the Cherry Tree is, and being extremely supportive of it, the committee were concerned about the future viability of the business with such a marked reduction in outdoor amenity space, particularly during the summer months.

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Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

Headed ‘permanent closure of the Haddenham Cherry Tree’ the owners have explained on Facebook to its customers and friends their momentous decision.

“The committee questioned whether more of the outside space could be retained, and the cycle parking provision utilised as car parking.

“It was also noted that the proposed new property constituted overdevelopment in its present form.

“From a road safety perspective, there were concerns with the visibility splays, which have already been highlighted by county highways.

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“It was also noted that the area is currently subject to a consultation for a 20mph zone which would include additional lining, further limiting on-street parking.”

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