Staff at a brewery in Watford fear they might be forced out of the town completely following Wednesday’s Development Management Committee meeting, where plans to redevelop a site at St. Albans Road were refused.
Pope’s Yard Brewery are having to relocate from their current premises at Whippendell Road, because their landlord is looking to re-develop the site. Despite a long look for an alternative location, they have not been able to find anywhere suitable in Watford and will be moving the main part of the brewery to the historic Frogmore Paper Mill in Apsley.
Pope’s Yard had hoped to maintain a presence in Watford by refurbishing the Grade II-listed Old Station Building along St Albans Road, and bringing it back into use as a craft beer tap room and bottle shop, community space and local brewing museum. The plans were part of a wider regeneration scheme being promoted by GS8 to development a site at 147 St Albans Road and the adjoining land near Watford Junction but they were rejected by committee members.
Barbara Leenen of Pope’s Yard Brewery Ltd, said:
“We are deeply disappointed to hear that the plans did not go through.
“Our current building at Whippendell Road is earmarked for redevelopment, and we have been desperate to find somewhere in Watford. We have been working closely with GS8 for almost a year to create somewhere unique for Watford that the locals can enjoy and be proud of. We would like the Old Station House to be accessible to the public again and inform visitors about its rich history. The building would also be the ideal home for our growing collection of artefacts from Watford’s brewing and industrial past including the original indenture signed by John Dyson when he purchased the building that is now Watford Museum.”
Geoff Latham of Pope’s Yard Brewery Ltd, said:
“Our business is all about producing handcrafted ales using traditional ingredients and processes that celebrate Watford’s heritage. Watford is so important to us and the Old Station Building would have been an ideal location to maintain a presence in the town. We were also planning to fit a pilot brew kit there to teach about beer and brewing, work on experimental brews and the recreation of historic recipes.”
Almost 100 people wrote to the Council to express support for the plans against just eight objectors but the Committee was told to ignore the letters of support and to reject the scheme, initially without reason.
Watford has a strong history of brewing dating back to the 17th century, with names such as Benskins and Sedgwicks still in local memory.
Pope’s Yard had been the only brewery in Watford, harking back to its heritage, with the name ‘Pope’s Yard’ referencing Watford’s most successful brewery in 1600s, named after the founder John Pope.
Miss Leenen added:
“Making a positive contribution to the community and celebrating Watford’s history is just as important to us as making great beer. We love taking part at the Watford Heritage Open Days, getting visits by CAMRA, the Brewers History Society and other local groups. We have been collaborating with Watford Museum, West Herts College and many small businesses and will continue to do so; however, having to move further away from Watford is obviously disappointing for us, our partners and our customers.”