Reed pub campaigners call business ‘a smokescreen’ as pub dispute rumbles on
- Credit: Archant
Campaigners fighting to save the 400-year-old Grade II-listed Cabinet pub at Reed have claimed the developer’s Indian restaurant business venture at the site is a “smokescreen” for his real plans.
The Save The Cabinet Action Group has been campaigning to restore The Cabinet to a traditional village pub – it is currently home to property developer Richard Newman and his business with partner Abdul Mojid, the Spice Cabinet.
Mr Newman bought the building five years ago and turned it into a residential dwelling. Following a campaign by the group to save the pub, retrospective planning permission was refused after a public inquiry.
Mike Howes, chair of the Save the Cabinet Action Group, said: “It’s no coincidence that Spice Cabinet has opened now. Don’t be misled. This is all just a smokescreen – part of Mr Newman’s grand scheme to make the lovely old Cabinet into his house permanently.”
Mr Newman has applied for planning permission and listed building consent to split the building and make the main part of it permanently his house.
A similar application to subdivide the old pub was refused by North Herts planners last year. But during the lockdown, villagers said they noticed building work going on at the pub. Now the restaurant has opened in a small part of the building while Mr Newman continues to live in the rest.
Mike continued: “Time after time Mr Newman has simply ignored the planning law that the rest of us have to follow.
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“Now he has used the cover of lockdown to do precisely what the planners told him he couldn’t. It’s unbelievable what he has been allowed to get away with.
“Meanwhile he’s turned down generous offers from people who would be happy to buy or lease The Cabinet to reopen it and turn it back into the popular pub it used to be.
“Make no mistake. If he’s allowed to continue to treat The Cabinet as his house, you can be sure that the restaurant won’t last long.
“He’ll soon make it part of his house too, and Reed will have lost its beautiful old pub forever.
“That’s why we’ll be objecting strongly to the latest proposals.”
Campaigners claim the restaurant was not registered with North Herts District Council’s food hygiene authority when it opened. They also say customers have also reported that there are issues with non-compliance with the rules on social distancing.
Richard Newman disputes this and said calling it a smokescreen is not true.
He told the Crow: “Abdul and myself spent just under £1 million pounds refurbishing and purchasing the property for our lifetime investment.
“We are both successful businessmen but we don’t have that kind of money to throw about as a ‘smokescreen’.
“We also have been working every day very hard setting up this business for our lifetime future.
“The Cabinet has always had a residential living part to the property, many previous licensees have lived in the property without issue.
“The Cabinet, for 400 years has traded serving food and alcohol with associated living. Save the Cabinet is totally wrong in what they say.
“As a listed property, I wanted to keep it as it was originally used.
“We opened after lockdown and our business has all relevant licenses in place and strictly adhere’s to the government COVID-19 guidelines for safety of all our customers and staff.
“I did but do not now wish to sell or rent the property as Abdul and myself have lifetime committed plans for the Spice Cabinet
“The under value offers made by ‘Save the Cabinet’ was actually less than we just invested fitting out our kitchen alone.
“The same people making these false allegations trying to tarnish our business and discriminate Abdul and myself are the very same people bullying us into selling The Cabinet to them.
“It is our choice what food we serve and to keep our business.
“The Cabinet never survived as the ‘old style traditional pub’ so we reinvented the newly refurbished pub into The Spice Cabinet for the whole community to share and enjoy.”
The latest planning application for the building was registered on June 29.
The Crow has contacted North Hertfordshire District Council for comment, but did not receive a response by the time we went to press