SAVE THE HONEST MILLER: COMMUNITY UPDATE
Our names are Cat, Alice and Emily and we live in Brook. We are writing to you because we are concerned about the future of The Honest Miller and the impact it’s potential loss would have on the village and wider community.
From the hop parties of the 50's to bonfire celebrations, parties and community events, the pub has been a vital base in our little corner of Kent for many generations.
With a new owner, who purchased the pub and land during the first lockdown of 2020, planning application is now being considered for residential properties on the land.
We strongly believe The Honest Miller is viable and has a great future as a successful, Kentish pub. We would love to come together as a community to ensure the survival and future prosperity of our beautiful, village pub.
HONEST MILLER - THE LATEST
The Honest Miller was put up for Sale by its owners, Admiral Taverns, in March 2020. It was bought by a Buckinghamshire based development company in May. Soon after, in July, the developer sought pre-application advice from Ashford Borough Council (ABC) to build 9 dwellings on the land, but an application to develop only two dwellings was subsequently made. There is no mention of any plans for the pub in the application.
At this stage, planning permission will either be refused, or go to a formal Committee Hearing. If it goes to Committee Hearing, a representative of the Parish Council (PC) will be able to present our case against development on the land.
ABC formally adopted a village settlement confines plan in July which outlines the extent of the village built area by a red line. ABC planning policy permits limited infill development only within these settlement confines to ensure that Brook remains a linear village. The PC has worked incredibly hard, on behalf of the village, to ensure that all new development is within these “red lines” when commenting on planning applications. The development of two houses would go outside of this and potentially set a precedent for other developers looking at Brook. They have also applied to ABC for the Honest Miller to be re-registered as an Asset of Community Value [ACV] following expiry of the previous registration in the summer. A decision is expected from ABC early in 2021.
We feel there are two key things that the PC could present to the Committee Hearing on our behalf. Firstly, that we are prepared to come together as a village and are willing and able to buy it as a community led pub. We are aware that Ashford Council are keen to invest in rural businesses that support jobs and enhance rural, community life, and believe that the existence of a viable alternative could play a role in the planning application being rejected. Secondly, that residents of the village fully support this proposal and we can provide a list of their signatures to back this up.
OUR ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL
In the event that the council does not approve the planning application for two dwellings on the land surrounding the Honest Miller, we hope it will frustrate future efforts to use the land for residential purposes. Should the current owner wish to proceed with making the Honest Miller a viable going concern, solely as a pub, we would very much welcome and support this news! However, should the owner indicate that they are no longer interested in the investment, we are proposing that the community comes together to raise the capital to try to buy back the pub (and land) from the developer.
The vision is to run the establishment as a community pub or co-operative. At this stage, we are not coming to you with a firm proposal – instead, we are seeking to gauge interest and the preferences of the village and wider community.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY COMMUNITY PUB?
A community pub is owned and controlled by a large number of people from within the community. It is usually underpinned by a community business approach. Pubs saved in this way can be governed democratically, on the basis that each member gets one vote, or voting rights could be split in proportion with the investment made, which can increase investment totals.
Community pubs have both open and voluntary membership, meaning that new people moving into the community, or those who have not previously been involved, can still become members. They tend to be run by full-time managers or tenants with the support of members of the community who volunteer.
The Farriers Arms in nearby Mersham is a recent example of a successful community pub.
We are proposing the community could invest either cash, cash and time or just time, and will be asking this directly as part of the confidential survey (see details below). This would be in return for an equity stake in the pub and/or share options, depending on the business model and agreed terms.
An example of how this could work would be creating a committee of representatives from the village, who would form the management team. They would then help find the right tenant to come in and run the pub, who would have the full backing and support of the village.
The aspiration would be to have a directory of people on hand in the community, with different skill sets, who are prepared to help out if needed. This is not required for investment; it is merely a suggestion on how we could potentially incorporate additional support from the village. The day-to-day running of the pub would be done by a tenant and staff.
In addition to creating a great locals’ pub, we have a vision for a thriving restaurant serving fresh, seasonal dishes made with locally grown produce, a brilliant selection of Kentish wines, beers and ales and pop-up menus from guest chefs local to the region, celebrating the very best this brilliant county has to offer.
Other potential uses for the additional buildings and land could include a village shop, monthly farmers’ market, prescription and online delivery drop-off points, parent + baby groups, coffee mornings or even retaining the glamping facilities for which the land already has planning permission.
2 – PUBLICITY - We have set-up accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, all called @SaveTheHonestMiller, please follow, like and share to stay updated and use the hashtag #SaveTheHonestMiller. We will also look to get publicity/local media and MP support about preventing development and ensuring the survival of a valuable community asset.
3 – VILLAGE ZOOM MEETING – Friday 5 February, 8pm. The aim of the meeting is to update all interested parties with the latest details surrounding The Honest Miller, with a chance for questions at the end. We will email the Zoom link ahead of it.