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Landlord of The Exeter Arms in Barrowden says the future of his Rutland pub rests on planning permission being granted retrospectively for the work which was carried out to make the premises Covid-safe

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The future of a village pub hangs in the balance after renovations were made without planning permission.

Mark and Kate Symes spent £40,000 on a garden makeover at the Exeter Arms in Barrowden during the first wave of coronavirus.

The refurbishment allowed them to open an outside bar and dining area to make the business Covid-19 safe.

Mark and Kate Symes
Mark and Kate Symes

The couple didn’t realise the work required planning permission, so are now waiting for their retrospective application to be approved.

Although Mark is optimistic it will be granted, he says refusal would have a “catastrophic” impact on the business.

He said: “The financial viability of the pub would be called into question.

The Exeter Arms in Barrowden
The Exeter Arms in Barrowden

“If we lose the ability to use that outdoor space, we will face a catastrophic reduction in turnover and I’d have to seriously consider whether it’s worth opening the doors again.”

It has been a bumpy ride for the landlords who bought the pub in January but opened for just one night before the first lockdown began.

They kept things ticking over by offering a takeaway service and providing essential goods to the village shop.

In June they spent £40,000 of a government “Boris bounceback loan” on the pub garden, kitting it out with new furniture and pathways as well as an outdoor kitchen and bar.

More than 200 customers have signed a petition calling on Rutland County Council to grant permission.

John Merritt, of Chapel Lane, said: “The new landlord has done a great job of improving our pub and providing much needed support for the village during these difficult times.

“The changes made have been beneficial and are in keeping with what one would expect from an updated village pub. Waiting for planning permission would not have been possible if the business was to survive. “

Mill Lane resident Fiona Hayes has called for permission to be refused. She said: “The whole face of the barn and the pub itself has been changed and it no longer represents the iconic listed building that sits at the heart of this quintessential English village.”

Mark said: “It’s unfortunate that we were advised we didn’t need planning permission, but that’s the law and it can’t be different for us.

“Under normal circumstances pubs have a really hard time trying to make money and thousands close every year. Rural pubs suffer even more so you have to look at all the opportunities within the business.

“When we bought the pub we saw it’s potential. The garden was hardly ever used and we saw that as a huge opportunity and it was always part of our plan to create a fantastic space where people would want to be.”

The pub has remained closed for the second lockdown because it wasn’t financially viable to open for takeaways.

Mark received £1,300 in government compensation for the month of November where he would normally expect to take £27,000.

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