Detailed response from Harvey’s to the reaction from the local residents to the closure of The Foresters Arms, East Hoathly:
Harvey’s sincerely empathises with the people of East Hoathly about the closure of The Foresters Arms but in simple terms it has succumbed to the widespread plight of village pubs across the county and there is a common reason – people don’t use pubs as they did a generation ago.
Harvey’s are the freehold owners of the property – they do not directly “run” the pub. Harvey’s tenancies are traditional agreements; tenants can depart at 6 months’ notice; our rents are modest (often half that of pub market rents) and Harvey’s income from these houses is supported by wet supply, mostly beer (at market prices).
Harvey’s can both state and demonstrate that the company has not profited from owning The Foresters Arms for at least a quarter of a century. For one year, the already modest rent was set at zero in order to attract a competent operator and Harvey’s has invested in the property to a level disproportionately high relative to our landlord’s property obligation.
It is incumbent on our tenants to make a pub successful; it is their business; their opportunity for profit; their risk of loss. Unfortunately, this house has consistently traded at half the turnover necessary to break-even and lack of viability and financial unsustainability has been sited by all tenants as the reason for leaving.
East Hoathly is a contained residential economy, having little in the way of visitor attractions or local business/industry, and with the allocation to expand its population with new housing withdrawn. The Foresters Arms and The Kings Head have always competed for this same mixed trade base of village locals. The populous currently has a total ‘spend threshold’ of between £4,000 and £5,000 per week in pubs. This may just about be sufficient for one village pub, but not two.
Harvey’s placed the tenancy for The Foresters Arms on the market last November. Only two enquiries were made. One withdrew interest upon our disclosure of the trading performance and the second was only proposing a ‘Tenancy at Will’ on peppercorn rent with no intent to invest in the critical regulatory tenant compliance. This would have meant the pub would trade outside legally required standards (most notably hygiene and health & safety) and they would not have invested the minimum £50,000 needed just to re-open a compliant kitchen. This was not a realistic proposal.
To be clear, Harvey’s are simply unable to find a tenant with a sustainable business plan prepared to make the necessary investment and to be regulatory compliant to continue to run The Foresters Arms. Harvey’s has recently operated some selected houses under management but the model requires the turnover to be significant ( 6 to 10 times that of the Foresters). Most of our Estate is too small (both physically and financially) to qualify for this scale of venture but most can still be successful under tenancy (provided turnover is at least double that of The Foresters Arms). The Foresters would never be suitable for any pub chain’s managed model.
The building was originally constructed as 2 houses, with the small cottage added later. The scheme submitted to the Local Planning Authority is a light-touch proposal which retains the existing cottage and respects the origins of the building, the Conservation Area and the wider village.
Harvey’s will be responding to the formal consultation process for the recent nomination of The Foresters Arms as an ACV. The ACV process is separate from the planning process although, if confirmed, it is a material planning consideration. However, Planning Officers have already considered the previous use of the property as a pub as part of their detailed assessment of the application against both local and national planning policy. An ACV brings with it a community right to bid but only in the event the property is placed on the market. It is not intended to be used as an instrument to stop development.
We are happy to answer all enquiries regarding The Foresters. If you wish to make an enquiry please use our contact form here: https://www.harveys.org.uk/contact/contact-us/