Northants village pub fears closure after replacing rotting windows with plastic ones

The new windows at the Dukes Arms.
The new windows at the Dukes Arms.

An East Northants village pub landlord fears a decision to replace rotting windows could force him out of business.

The windows of the Dukes Arms in Woodford have been deteriorating for several years, so landlord Tony Blyth decided to replace them with UPVC units.

But as the pub is on a conservation site the work has been reported to East Northants Council (ENC), and could be punishable by a fine or an order to replace the windows.

This could cost up to £25,000, which the pub simply doesn’t have – and Mr Blyth says it could spell the end.

The 55-year-old said: “I’ve been landlord for 15 years and they were an eyesore even before I started. We’re probably talking 30 years.

“They’re a massive health and safety hazard, window panes have fallen out of them.

“As landlord I’ve got a duty to ensure that my staff and customers are safe, and they weren’t with those windows.

“It feels like we’re being punished just for following health and safety guidelines.

“Replacing the windows cost me £5,000. We simply can’t afford to pay £25,000 to put in the hardwood sash ones that were there before.”

A petition to save the pub, which raised £6,000 for Cransley Hospice with its musical festival last month, has been set up by village residents.

And Mr Blyth says he is humbled by the support he has received.

He added: “This is the only pub left in the village. We’ve seen four shut in the past six years and that’s mainly down to finance.

“It’s such a key part of the village and I’m humbled by the support from everyone so far.

“We’ve even made a beer called ENC with 1p for every pint sold going towards the windows.

“At the end of the day I have not got the money to replace the windows and that could end us.”

An ENC spokesman said it was investigating the breach.

The spokesman said: “We received a complaint in July regarding replacement windows at the Dukes Arms in Woodford.

“The building is in the Woodford Conservation Area and planning permission would have been required for the works undertaken.

“We’re duty-bound to investigate alleged breaches of planning control and so we wrote to the Wellington Pub Company in early August as part of this investigation.

“These investigations are ongoing and, contrary to the claims of a recent online petition, we have not suggested that we would fine the owner or landlord of the Dukes Arms for undertaking works without the necessary consent.

“Similarly, it is not our intention to close the pub down.

“We’re proud of our business-friendly approach and have worked proactively with the landlord in the past to secure acceptable replacement windows, including getting reasonable quotes from local suppliers and helping with grant applications to fund the work.

“Against the backdrop of this assistance, we were surprised to discover that windows had been installed without further dialogue with the relevant departments.

“We’re always willing to work with local businesses to try and find acceptable solutions to problems that arise from time to time and that is why we will continue to speak with the landlord to resolve this issue together.”

The petition can be found here.