faqFrequently-asked questions about the 'Save Our White Horse' campaign in Kimpton, Hertfordshire
Save Our White Horse - FAQ
What is a Community Benefit Society?
A community benefit society is run as a business for the benefit of the community, rather than just for members of the society. This means that it must have an overarching community purpose that reaches beyond its membership.
The money raised by a share offer, combined with other funding from grants and loans, will enable the Society to safeguard The White Horse. The Society will oversee implementation of the business plan to make enough profit to be sustainable and pay some interest on capital for investors, but the main goal is to provide great services and play a vital role within our community. Any excess cash generated would be reinvested in the pub or in other community activities in Kimpton.
Should the business prove unsustainable, Community Benefit Society Rules require any proceeds from sale of the property to be returned to shareholders and any excess funds invested in the community.
What is the recent history of The White Horse?
The White Horse was steadily run down and eventually shut down and sold by McMullens Brewery in April 2015 to property developer Haut Ltd.
Haut Ltd submitted a planning application to change its use to residential in June 2015 which is rejected in August 2015 after strong local objections. Also in August 2015 The White Horse was designated as an Asset of Community Value preventing its sale without first giving the opportunity to purchase to the local community.
Haut Ltd submitted an appeal to the planning inspectorate on this decision. The appeal was rejected and the planners decision upheld.
The “Save Our White Horse” campaign was formed and held its first meeting in November 2015.
Haut Ltd then put the property back on the market in January 2016.
The “Save Our White Horse” campaign created its first business plan with specialist consultant support showing the business was viable. A share offer was initiated which together with grant funding raised sufficient money to purchase the freehold at around market value and complete refurbishment to return it to use as a pub.
Unfortunately, the campaign was outbid by two different property developers and the pub was eventually sold to Eleven Six IT Ltd, a small IT company with no history or activities in the leisure or pub trade. The pub has been closed and unmaintained ever since.
The campaign maintains regular contact with Eleven Six IT Ltd who have offered repeated assurances that plans were in progress to return the pub to use.
The Asset of Community Value status was extended in August 2020 to run till August 2025.
In March 2021, Eleven Six IT submit a planning application for a mixed-use micro pub, commercial and residential development of The White Horse which would prevent its use as a full service pub serving food.
In August 2021, after overwhelming objections from the community, North Herts District Council summarily reject the application on the basis that a micro pub would not be viable, the scale, design and proximity of extensions would result in loss of amenity/ overbearing impact to neighbours and proposed extensions and alterations will occasion harm to the host listed building and the Kimpton Conservation Area.
What condition is the White Horse in and can it be returned to use as a pub?
The pub was not adequately maintained by the brewery prior to closing down and its sale in 2015. The two subsequent owners have carried out no maintenance and allowed the building to fall into disrepair. The dilapidated external appearance is therefore presenting a poor image of our otherwise vibrant village.
Our campaign commissioned a professional structural survey in 2017 which identified and costed the significant repairs required at that stage to maintain and preserve the listed building.
The current owners own structural survey submitted with his planning application in 2021 indicates that the condition of the building has deteriorated significantly since 2017 and urgent remedial works are now required to preserve the historic fabric and structural integrity of the building.
Members of the campaign committee have recently inspected the premises internally and externally with two respected and experienced local builders and generated a detailed, itemised repair scope and associated costings. These costings have been incorporated in our business plan which shows that even with increased deterioration and subsequent additional renovation cost since 2017 the business can still be viable.
What Protections does the White Horse have?
With the support of our Parish Council, the campaign has been successful in registering and maintaining the pub status as an Asset of Community Value. This means that if the owner wishes to sell the pub it must first be offered exclusively to the village for six months before it can be offered on the open market. Unfortunately it does not compel the owner to sell the pub nor does it dictate the price.
Asset of Community value status is a material factor in consideration of any planning application which may compromise use of the property as a pub. It is therefore vital that we maintain the status when it is required to be renewed in 2025.
The pub is also a Grade 2 listed building which means the owner is legally required to maintain the building and preserve its historic fabric and character. Listing also constrains what changes can be made to the building.
As a listed building, the District Council have the power to enforce the owner to carry out and pay for the repairs necessary to preserve the fabric and structure of the building. Kimpton Parish Council have formally asked the District Council to take the appropriate enforcement action to preserve the building and we await the outcome of that request.
The property has a Planning Use Class as a Pub so cannot be used for any other purpose including any residential occupancy or commercial office use unless this is ancillary to trading as a pub. Change of Planning Use Class to allow residential, office or other commercial use would require a formal planning application which would be strongly contested by the campaign to prevent loss of the pub.
Has the owner agreed to sell?
The campaign has had several discussions with the owner regarding purchase of the pub and dialogue channels remain open. However, despite our offers, the owner has so far declined to sell at or close to the market value as a pub.
Would the pub be viable?
The campaign has carried out extensive due diligence to assess the viability of the White Horse as a community owned business which confirms that it would be viable.
With the support of the Plunkett Society (who support community owned businesses) and their expert advisors we have visited several similar community owned village pubs and held extensive detailed discussions with campaign groups who have acquired and now run their pubs as successful community owned businesses. This gives us great confidence that through diligence, attention to detail and listening to the community to provide the best service, our campaign would replicate their success.
The Plunkett Society reports that they have supported creation of around 150 community owned pubs, none of which have ever failed.
The campaign has recently commissioned a business viability and market assessment report from a professional pub surveyor and valuer who has 30+ years experience in the licence trade. This report confirmed our view of market value and that the pub can be made viable as a community business. It also identifies the positive future potential for the business and the steps required to enhance the chances of success.
How Does a Community Owned Pub Differ From a Traditional Brewery/ Commercially Owned Pub?
Most pubs are owned by breweries or large corporations who impose high lease and rental costs which, in many cases, severely limit the viability of pubs, particularly in rural locations. Many also impose “ties” on tenants to force them to purchase stock from a single supplier at high cost.
Community pub groups have freedom of choice on stock at the best prices (e.g. local beers) and the primary focus is on serving the community as a sustainable business as opposed to generating maximum profit. They also have the flexibility to diversify into other income streams such as cafés, shops and other services for the local community. They benefit from greater customer loyalty from their local community many of whom will be shareholders. A community pub is therefore probably a safer investment than a pub run commercially solely for profit.
What about parking, isn’t it constrained, won’t this affect viability?
The White Horse car park has spaces for around six to eight cars. These will be prioritised for use by disabled customers. The park field sports ground car park is only a pleasant 200 m walk away past the church and village green and has space for around thirty or more cars.
We expect a significant proportion of trade to come from village residents who can walk or cycle to the pub or walkers and cyclists from outside of the village who regularly use the excellent footpaths and cycle routes around the village.
Many other successful local pubs have no on-site parking and even more constrained public parking (e.g. The Bull at Gosmore, The Brocket Arms Ayot St Lawrence, The Plough Datchworth etc).
We therefore do not consider parking as a major factor impacting viability of the pub.
How will The White Horse work alongside other village services?
The White Horse will support and complement other village facilities and services. Our business plan intends that the pub will be a benefit to all Kimpton businesses and organisations by attracting further custom from across the village and surrounding areas and generally stimulating the economy of the village.
There is already another pub in the village, is there enough trade to support two pubs?
Yes. The number of pubs in Kimpton per head of population is roughly half the national average and around half the average for the Hitchin and Harpenden Parliamentary constituency. Kimpton can therefore easily support another viable pub provided it offers the right service.
The current sole pub in the village, The Boot, is primarily a sports bar and serves its intended market well. However, it only serves part of the total potential market. The White Horse would seek to complement the offer of The Boot with a cosy, more traditional country pub feel with traditional real ales and restaurant quality food and thereby fill the gap in the market.
We anticipate that the additional trade attracted to the village by having a choice of pubs would enhance the attractiveness and economic activity in the village and hence the viability of both pubs.
How do pubs affect house prices? A recent survey showed that 23 per cent of buyers thought having a good local pub was an important part of their decision-making process. Add to that the fact that close proximity to a popular pub could add as much as 10 per cent to property prices and it’s easy to see why having one within walking distance is beneficial to the village.