Pub refurbishment process: Navigating planning permission

The Thatched Tavern in Maidencombe is a listed building that had been badly damaged by fire. The kitchen was completely destroyed, and the roof needed to be replaced, the public areas suffered from smoke damage. The design of this pub conversion project was made more complex by the fact that it’s a Grade II Listed Building, which meant we had to navigate and negotiate with planning permission authorities to achieve the vision: The ultimate pub experience.

Even though the majority of the proposed changes were not in the areas of historic importance, the listing applies to the whole site and requires listed building consent. Failure to do so can mean the immediate closure of the site and potential prison for the building owners, therefore, it is a serious process.

About the property

The Thatched Tavern in Maidencombe, Torquay is a Grade II Listed building (1974) described as a ‘Chocolate Box’ freehold pub located in the village of Maidencombe which lies between Torquay and Teignmouth on the South Devon coast.

The pub’s position

The property is located at the foot of a lovely valley, only a few hundred yards from Maidencombe Beach and the South West Coastal Footpath. The harbourside and town centre of Torquay are approximately three miles away, while Shaldon and Teignmouth on the Teign Estuary are around five miles up the coast.

The pub building

The thatched pub features whitewashed walls, parts of which are believed to date from the 15th Century. There is an extension to the rear of the property to provide a 60-seat restaurant and commercial kitchens. A beer garden wraps around the side and rear, with thatched outhouses and a detached bungalow within the grounds. You can capture sea views from the top of the garden – and the beach is only 300 hundred metres away. The pub features several trading rooms – the main bar, a snug and a dedicated restaurant. Behind the restaurant is a fully equipped commercial kitchen, office, kitchenette, and cloakrooms.

Then along came a fire

When working on this pub refurbishment, it was clear a couple of the changes required listed building consent, and the kitchen fire meant a delicate negotiation was needed. Making the premises safe was not in connection with the planning approval – but instead with the pub fire.

The kitchen was burned.
There was a hole in the thatched roof.
Water was coming into the pub.

This meant we had to negotiate with the planners — because you aren’t meant touch anything without planning permission. Notifying the planner in advance about the remedial works due to the fire, meant we started the entire planning relationship on the right foot.

The planning process

We always use our years of experience to get things managed correctly on behalf of the client. The first stage is to establish with the planning authority about any permissions required. This ensures you are on track with all the required consents and approvals, before starting to do anything at your property.

There are ways to design within permissible constraints. Identifying these can save you months or even years in the process. We will often work with Planning Consultants who can provide specific advice and guidance to help the project progress.

Involving the right people in the planning process

There’s always a lot of people involved in any pub refurbishment project, especially at the early stages. In this instance, we involved the planners from day one to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible for everyone concerned.

Planning permission for a bar refurbishment

Bar refurbishment is a potentially complicated project, as it can involve major changes to the structure of your building. Planning permission is required for any major refurbishment or extension of a building, including moving walls and ceilings. Changing the use of a property is also considered an alteration by the council, so planning permission will be needed if you want to transform an office into your bar area.

The statutory approval process

When it comes to the statutory approval process, you need to identify which ones of the issues needs to be addressed.

Planning Approval is required for any development which is going to impact on its surroundings within certain criteria. It is obtained via the Local Authority and is required to minimize or prevent inappropriate development from taking place and promote development which adheres to the areas Local Development Plan.

Thankfully, for most of our refurbishment projects, they tend not to involve too much planning, listed building or building control, but when they do, you need to know early on that’s coming so you can build that into your budgets, and timelines.

Restaurant refurbishment specialists

As an experienced design and build agency, we know first-hand the challenges that come with restaurant refurbishments. Whether it’s adding more covers, changing the use of the space, or extending the premises, each project requires a unique approach. That’s why it’s essential to work with a specialist who knows the planning process inside out. With our expertise in interior design and architecture, we can guide you through the entire process and ensure your refurbishment meets your goals and expectations. From selecting the right materials and furnishings to creating a functional layout that maximises your space, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive design plan that delivers results. Trust us to turn your vision into reality and create a restaurant that stands out from the crowd.

Our top tips for working within the planning process for pub refurbishment

Almost all local authority planning departments are working with greatly reduced resources. This has made for difficult time for both planners and applicants. There is enormous pressure on both sides to do a good job but often things become strained as commercial urgency meets public sector process culture.

  1. Planning is a statutory requirement, so if you are not planning on any type of pub refurbishment at all — then don’t do it. If in doubt – talk to the planners first.
  2. There’s always some little twist that comes up when dealing with listed building approvals and council planners. Allow time and be prepared to get lost of advice.
  3. Some things often requested as part of planning application: Environmental Impact Statement, Flood risk assessment, Bat Survey, Tree Survey, Economic Impact Statement, Design and Access Document. Your design team will organise these and the Planning Consultant (if required) will ensure all the relevant issues are addressed.
  4. It is rare the planners will tell everything that is required up front. It is the applicant’s responsibility to establish this. In some rare cases you will find a proactive approach form a local authority but is rare.
  5. Some Authorities are introducing a two ties system where you can pay an additional fee and be allocated a planning officer who will guide you through the process. The additional cost may be offset by the weeks of additional trading gained through a quicker process.
  6. Timely engagement with planners means fewer delays and less stress on your part. This is especially important when it comes to planning permission because that process does have a way of slowing things down.

The best refurbishment projects are the ones where refurbishment contractors and the planners are working together towards shared objectives. Understanding how each party ranks these priorities is a good way of finding a constructive way through the planning process.

Even then you still might find yourself having to go back for updated approval on an existing pub refurbishment project if the project scope has been expanded or altered further.

A listed building is a structure designated by English Heritage of national importance and special interest. They are legally protected from demolition, as well as any addition or alteration to its original design without authorisation from the local planning authority which controls whether alterations require permission at all.