Knebworth Parish Council

Serving the people of Knebworth

VILLAGE SURVEY : THE STATION PUB

The Station public house is a prominent historic landmark in the centre of Knebworth. It closed in February 2017 and has been split into two sites. Planning consent has been granted to convert the garden area into apartments, with the building remaining as a pub.

The Parish Council believes that having a working public house at The Station is an asset to our local community. Knebworth is a large village and is ear-marked for growth. A pub on this site provides more opportunity for our community to gather, socialise and entertain.

THE STATION PUB IS UP FOR SALE

THE PARISH COUNCIL WANTS TO TRY TO BUY IT

The Council would like to know residents' views:

Should Knebworth Parish Council borrow funds to purchase the Station Pub as a Public House and Village Asset?

Why are we doing this now?

The current owner has put the pub building up for sale. We are currently in the middle of a six-month moratorium period where only community groups can attempt to purchase it and preserve it for the community. This includes the SOSPUB campaign and Parish Council.

We hope that this newsletter and survey helps you understand the situation and what we are looking to achieve. We need support from the Parish community to make a bid to secure its future.

What have we done already?

The Parish Council have set up a working party to consider the viability of making a bid. We have prepared a business plan and received some interest from potential tenants already.

Our initial plans indicate that this is a viable small business proposition, despite the loss of the garden. However this would not be viable for a large pub chain to be successful, as history has demonstrated.

What happens next?

Central government makes funds available to Parish Councils for capital projects. We can apply for a low interest long-term loan of up to £500,000 repayable over many years. Permission is granted if central government are satisfied, based on a business plan, that the loan has a community purpose, support, and will be repaid.

If we succeed in obtaining funding, we propose to attempt to buy The Station pub premises and retain it as an asset for the community

The current owner cannot be forced to sell it to any community group, but we can try. If we are successful, we would then lease the premises to a commercial pub operator as a freehold pub offer.

How much will all this cost us?

The Parish Council seeks to borrow the money to buy the pub and will also cover some initial renovation costs. The annual rent will pay off the loan. Therefore, loan repayments would not depend on Parish Council revenues. Residents should not expect a precept rate increase in their council tax, and there is no plan to do so. In the unlikely event that we cannot find any tenant or sell the pub there is a future risk that the precept would have to increase to cover costs. For context, however, the entire Parish Council precept is only 4% of total Council Tax bills (£74.71 precept for 2019-20 on a Band D property). Should the Council have to repay £500,000 over 35 years via the precept only, it could increase the precept by 15% (£11.53 a year on a Band D property).

We cannot say exactly how much we are willing to spend as we plan to negotiate with the owner. The pub is on the market for £595,000, but we believe that its value as a business is less than this.

The Parish Council and SOSPUB group are working together

The Parish Council and SOSPUB group have been working together to try and save The Station since its closure. We sought to protect it originally by listing it as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and have representation in the SOSPUB group.

We have agreed that the best way forward is for both parties to develop complementary proposals and attempt to make separate bids.

SOSPUB group would seek to run it as a 'non -profit' community pub. The Parish Council would buy it and let it to a commercial operator. This is a different proposition to the SOSPUB proposal, but we are looking to explore all possible avenues.

We believe that both the Parish Council and SOSPUB need to make efforts to create viable proposals now and attempt to buy it. Having more viable offers made may lower the risk of the pub being redeveloped into accommodation in the future.

Complete the survey online or by printing the form and returning it to one of the post boxes at the Village Hall, Village News, Village Stores (Stockens Green) or Lucas May Florist.

The newsletter, including the survey, will be delivered to households between 16-19 May 2019.

The survey will end on Friday 7 June 2019.