Councillor Richard Robertson
Councillor Richard Robertson

The Flying Pig has closed because developer Johnny Vincent refused to extend the lease to the pub’s tenants, Justine and Matt Hatfield. The couple spent years building up the reputation of the Flying Pig as a popular music venue as well as a great pub.

Local Labour councillors, Richard Robertson, Mike Davey and Richard Howitt had a meeting with Mr Vincent  early last week and asked him to reconsider his refusal to extend the lease. But he insisted that it must close, and again went to the press claiming that he was trying to “save” it.

The pub is part of the large site on Hill Rd, Cambridge on which Mr Vincent wanted to build two huge office blocks. His plans would have knocked down parts of the existing pub building, involved substantial changes to the layout and garden, and left the two storey pub overshadowed by an eight storey office block towering above and immediately behind it.

When the planning application came to the City Council’s Planning Committee in March this year the councillors gave it careful consideration and decided unanimously that the developer had not shown that the Flying Pig would continue to be viable if all the changes were made. They also felt that the office blocks would adversely dominate the character and appearance of their surroundings from both Hills Road and the adjacent Botanic Gardens. And that it was not acceptable that no homes would be provided on the site although it is allocated in the city’s Local Plan for a mix of residential and employment purposes.

For all these reasons the planning application was refused. Mr Vincent subsequently appealed against this decision, and the hearing for that appeal will be held in January 2022. As Mr Vincent refused to extend the lease the pub has had to shut even though that means it will lie empty and unused. The decision on the appeal is not expected until mid March.

Cllr Richard Robertson said of the decision,

“ It was totally selfish of Johnny Vincent to refuse to let the Hatfields continue to run this massively popular pub and music venue at least until the results of the planning appeal are known. Pubs that are left empty risk deterioration and for this reason my colleagues and I have asked the City Council to submit a Building Preservation Notice to Historic England. We have also the council to list the Flying Pig as a Building of Local Interest and we are seeking full listing of the pub as a heritage asset with Historic England.

“These statuses will not mean the pub will re-open, that is very much in the hands of Mr Vincent,  but at least they will give the building several measures of protection. The Flying Pig has a long history, probably having been built in 1832 and originally to serve the railway construction workers. The connection with the arrival of the railways was recognised in its then name, The Engineer. It later became The Crown and then The Flying Pig.

“At our meeting with Johnny Vincent last week he said that if loses the appeal he would seek to make use of an earlier planning consent. This dates from 2008 so it is believed it can no longer be applied to the site, but if it were then it would mean the whole of the Flying Pig building and garden would be demolished except for the facade facing Hills Road. This frontage would form part of a six storey office block. This would effectively destroy the pub and Mr Vincent says he would do this rather than prepare any new plans for the site. So much for his claim to be “saving” the Flying Pig.

“It makes us angry to see the closure of this highly popular pub and venue for so much great live music. It is still possible for the owner, Johnny Vincent, to have new plans drawn up to retain the pub in its entirety alongside buildings appropriate to the site including homes. Even now Mr Vincent could allow the pub to be re-opened but meanwhile we are doing what we can to ensure that the building has legal protection from demolition.”

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