St Albans pub landlady's sit-in over planning wrangle
THE LANDLADY of The Goat Inn in St Albans came to the end of her tether on Monday when she staged a sit-in at the district council offices. Kate Axford, whose business is losing thousands following an order to stop building work on the 15th-century pub in
THE LANDLADY of The Goat Inn in St Albans came to the end of her tether on Monday when she staged a sit-in at the district council offices.
Kate Axford, whose business is losing thousands following an order to stop building work on the 15th-century pub in Sopwell Lane, was so enraged at the planning officers' refusals to answer her calls that she demanded to see the interim head of planning John Young.
When told he was unavailable, she told the receptionist she would sit there until he agreed to see her.
Mr Young then met her and she was able to tell him in person how her family's livelihood was being threatened. However, he could not give her any idea of when the kitchen could re-open.
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Kate and her husband Michael took over the pub two years ago and have built up its reputation for food. They employ a chef and serve food seven days a week.
But the property, which is owned by Enterprise Inns, has fallen foul of the strict regulations surrounding Grade Two listed buildings in a Conservation Area.
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Their kitchen floor was rotten and needed replacing and Enterprise Inns hired a team of builders to do the work which started more than three weeks ago.
But then fate stepped in when Andrew Robley, a member of the council's conservation and design team, dropped into the pub for a drink and spotted a notice saying food was not available due to building work.
The next day he returned in his official capacity to take a look at the work and the builders were instructed to down tools.
Kate's husband Michael, aged 50, said: "It's been terrible for us. We are losing money hand over fist. We were counting on the work taking a week but now we have no end in view. We have had to cancel bookings and turn people away. It couldn't come at a worse time with the credit crunch.
"This weekend we have Mother's Day coming up which is one of the most profitable times for pubs."
Although the brewery accepted responsibility for failing to comply with the building regulations and gain the appropriate permissions, the couple are unhappy with the compensation package they have been offered for loss of trade.
Kate said: "It's laughable. We have lost thousands through this, not to mention the loss of goodwill we have painstakingly built up over the previous two years."
A council spokesperson said: "Mr Young met the landlady to discuss the way forward and has also been in touch with the brewery's regional manager.