St Albans community pub faces demolition after fall in sales

Planning permission to turn the Baton pub into flats and an M&S foodhall was granted this week (23)

Planning permission to turn the Baton pub into flats and an M&S foodhall was granted this week (23) - Credit: Archant

A troubled community pub, which has seen a 48 per cent drop in sales over the past five years, is to be demolished and replaced with 14 flats and a Marks & Spencer food hall.

The proposal was discussed at a planning committee meeting on Monday (23) night, where councillors voted six to three in favour of passing the application, which will now see The Baton pub on The Ridgeway, St Albans, demolished.

Lindsey McGregor, speaking on behalf of Marshalswick residents, told councillors the pub had once been an integral part of the community and had the potential to be so once again.

She said: “As well as regularly hosting music nights, being home to a darts team and regularly screening sport events, it is also used by informal community groups such as book groups and pensioners’ groups and areas in the pub are often hired for functions such birthday parties, wedding receptions and wakes.”

Sandridge parish councillor, Geoff Churchard also spoke against granting the planning permission: “The developers are rushing this application through before the local Marshalswick community has had a chance to explore the alternatives.”

The application includes building 12 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom flats - complete with just five parking spaces - as well as a retail facility complete with 21 parking spaces.

Cllr Churchard said that the application’s residents-to-parking-space ratio was “crazy” and accused the owners (the Spirit Pub Company) of deliberately mismanaging the pub to misrepresent the premises’ viability as a public house in order to acquire the planning permission and sell off the freehold.

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But Mr Piper, speaking for the application, said: “In the five-plus years leading up to this application, The Baton public house has struggled to be viable.

“Spirit have extensive knowledge of running pubs across the UK and have sought to introduce measure to safeguard the business – including reducing rents to the point where it is costing them money to keep the pub open.

“I therefore ask that you lend your support to this application and recognise that the overall benefits that this scheme brings significantly outweighs the closure of a failing business, which is only used by a small minority.”

Cllr Malachy Pakenham moved to pass the proposal and said: “It’s not a community asset; it’s nowhere near being a community asset and as a CAMRA member myself, people do get a bit romantic about the loss of pubs, quite rightly, and indeed libraries. But when you ask them whether they go in the library or the pub, the answer is invariably ‘no’.”

Speaking after the meeting, Lindsey McGregor said that she was now looking to register the pub as an asset of community value, which would offer a layer of protection, should the owners look to sell the premises.