Regulations sought after restaurant staff found at 'risk of harm' in outbuilding

The Cabinet at Reed.

The Cabinet at Reed. - Credit: Archant

A property tribunal has been told that as many as six staff of the Spice Cabinet in Reed have been sleeping in a timber outbuilding that was considered unfit for human habitation.

The owner has sought building regulations after North Herts Council argued that fire risks, excessive cold and the danger of falls from the internal staircase involve an imminent risk of serious harm to the health and safety of the occupiers.

The outbuilding had been converted by its current owner from its former use as an external store. A staircase and upper floor had been added.

According to the tribunal, no planning permission or building control certification for residential use of the building existed or had been applied for.

A prohibition notice was issued in June 2021 by the Environmental Health department of North Herts Council.

The Save the Cabinet Action Group has been leading the local campaign against planning applications for The Cabinet site - a 400-year-old Grade II-listed pub - and have been frustrated by the apparent lack of action previously.

They said: "There has been no sign for nearly a year of action by North Herts Council to enforce planning and listed building requirements. Requests for updates have been met by blanket refusals to comment.

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"While campaigners understand the council’s wish not to prejudice any legal proceedings, the problem is that there are no legal proceedings, and nothing ever seems to happen.

"So it’s impossible to tell whether this case, which has given rise to such strong feelings locally, is being pursued energetically, or whether it’s just caught up in bureaucratic delays."

Richard Newman, the current owner of the Spice Cabinet, said: "We couldn't find any history of building regulations so I applied for them.

"We've applied for works to complete, - making sure there's enough insulation and it's all been registered with the council. They are dealing with the application so it conforms with everything.

"I am behind the council and I think buildings should be regulated."

 A spokesperson for North Herts Council said: “This is an active enforcement investigation involving planning and environmental health so we are unable to comment further at this stage.”