Henry Jenks rebranded as “offices” in attempt to avoid Planning Controls

The owner of the Henry Jenkins, David Fielder, is attempting to exploit a loophole in the law intended to protect community pubs – by rebranding the Henry Jenkins as his “estate office.”

Last week Harrogate Borough Council’s Planning Committee voted to reject plans for demolition of the Henry Jenkins and redevelopment of the site with housing. The main reason for doing so is that the council has a specific policy, called Policy CFX, designed to protect community facilities – and councillors were unanimous in deciding that in this case the terms and conditions of that policy had not been met.

They decided that planning permission for demolition/ redevelopment should be refused because: “The proposal would result in the loss of a community facility (public house) thereby reducing the variety of locally based community facilities to the detriment of meeting the present and future social needs and aspirations of this rural community.”

They determined that if he wished to reapply for demolition the applicant (Mr Fielder) would need to demonstrate that he had marketed the Henry Jenkins at a price which reflects its market value – and would need to provide evidence of marketing/ advertising plus offers to buy etc.

Mr Fielder is now attempting to get round this by exploiting a loophole in the law that allows owners of pubs and community facilities to change their designated use under “permitted development rights.” Under these rights, Mr Fielder can simply notify the council that he intends to change the use of the Henry Jenkins from public house to offices – without needing planning permission. At a later date he could then theoretically apply for planning permission to demolish an “office” – which would no longer be considered as a community facility. (The fact that the building is in a dilapidated state – and its interior has been stripped out of fixtures, fittings and internal walls etc – may not prevent the Henry Jenkins from being technically designated as “an office.” )

This is not supposition or guesswork:  Yesterday new signs were put up on the Henry Jenkins saying “Fielder Estate Office.” And Harrogate Borough Council have confirmed that they have been in discussions with Mr Fielder’s agent and are expecting to receive prior notification that he intends to change the use of the Henry Jenkins under permitted development rights.

Clearly this goes against the spirit of the Policy CFX , set up to protect community facilities. It is also an attempt to frustrate the will of elected members of Harrogate Borough Council’s Planning Committee, who were concerned to ensure that every effort was made to keep the Henry Jenkins as a public house – and who raised serious questions about efforts by Mr Fielder to market it as such.

The Save the Henry Jenkins committee is urgently considering its response to the latest developments. We believe Mr Fielder’s actions are a matter of national significance because they seek to undermine established national planning policies. We are encouraged by a vote in the House of Lords last week which seeks to remove permitted development rights from pubs and we will be raising the case of the Henry Jenkins at the highest level.

Watch this space for further developments.