Housing plan for Knebworth’s Station pub decisively rejected

The Station pub in Knebworth.

The Station pub in Knebworth. - Credit: Archant

Plans to build a house and nine flats next to the only pub in Knebworth were tonight branded “shoehorning with a vengeance” and refused.

Red-shirted supporters from the Save Our Station Pub campaign roundly applauded when North Herts District Council’s planning control committee, meeting at Letchworth’s Spirella Building, decisively rejected the application by Market Homes (Knebworth) Ltd to build on the site opposite the village’s railway station.

The Station, a former Greene King site, closed suddenly in February last year. The plan, which planning officer Kate Poyser tonight recommended approving, was to build a three-storey block of flats on the pub garden, with a new access road for the flats and a store building turned into a one-bedroom house. A previous proposal to extend the pub to put four flats inside was omitted.

The developer said the profits from the housing scheme were necessary to renovate and reopen The Station – but the campaign’s Lisa Nash spoke passionately against the plan, saying it would end any hope of reopening the pub.

She told the meeting: “This proposal will result in the loss of the pub. It’s not possible for it to survive as shown in the plan. As a result the whole community will suffer irrevocably.”

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She cited in support of this the lack of space in the plans for delivery vehicles and storage, among other factors.

Knebworth councillor Steve Hemingway spoke as a member advocate against granting approval, but advised that if permission were given there should be conditions requiring the pub to be up and running before any of the homes could be sold. Ms Poyser said this would be seen as unreasonable in the event of any appeal.

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Shanna Jackson, representing the developer, said the scheme was necessary to a plan to reopen The Station after refurbishment.

“This is a sustainable form of development in a sustainable location, which will benefit the community,” she said.

Pressed by Councillor Ian Mantle on whether there was a legal commitment to reopen the pub, she admitted there was not – but said her client would be receptive to such a condition.

Mr Mantle spoke scathingly about the proposal, expressing scepticism about the developer’s commitment to reopen the pub and saying the housing plan was “shoehorning with a vengeance”.

“We’re talking about a village, for heaven’s sake,” he said. “It seems to me that we would be allowing this to build right up to the house in what should be a quiet corner of a village. It is gross overdevelopment.”

Councillors including Faye Frost, Paul Clark and John Bishop also expressed concerns – and Mr Mantle’s motion to refuse the proposal, seconded by Mr Clark, was passed by a wide majority.

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