Last orders

Everyone knows that times are hard for rural pubs and that they are closing at a pace. Nonetheless, an inspector has ordered that a canvas-sided pergola at a pub in the Hertfordshire green belt should be removed despite the appellant’s plea for flexibility (DCS Number 400-032-356).

The inspector determined that the structure was inappropriate development in the green belt and that it had reduced openness. In addition, he found that the development was not of a high standard of design quality that was in keeping with the traditional character of the property. 

The inspector recognised that the effects the Covid-19 pandemic have had on the hospitality trade are well documented. He understood that social-distancing requirements had reduced the number of table covers by about half at the pub and was sympathetic to the general economic difficulties the appellant’s business might have encountered as a result. He therefore acknowledged that the canvas sides to the pergola might have helped create greater flexibility to help with the ongoing viability of the rural business and help the appellant continue to employ local staff. Nevertheless, he recorded that he had not been provided with any substantive evidence about how the business operated and how it had been affected. Further, he pointed out that the covered pergola was already being used before the pandemic and the first lockdown in March 2020. 

The inspector found that there was no clear indication as to when or if ‘normality’ would return and how long various social-distancing measures would be encouraged or imposed. The after-effect on the hospitality trade and society’s habits in general are also unknown, he continued. He did wonder whether to grant a temporary permission until the economic situation improved, but found that it was too indefinite. In any event, he reasoned that the development would still be physically present and continue to cause harm to the green belt and the character and appearance of the area.

That might be so but we do hope this is not last orders for the pub.

There is a section on external covered areas at pubs at 16.7326 of DCP Online.