The Rat and Parrot

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 28.

‘I must be the first to be thrown out of this new pub’

Some of you may be aware that a new pub has been constructed in the former offices of Januarys on Downing Street. On the day in early December when the Rat and Parrot first opened, I was thrown out at nine in the morning! This is something of a record: although I am over 50 and have never been thrown out of a pub before, I must be the first to be thrown out of this new pub. Why?

Those of you who regularly use Downing Street will be aware that, for several months, the very busy contraflow cycle lane has regularly been obstructed by vehicles delivering materials to this building site. Complaints to the City Council and to the police produced some action over these problems: some barriers were put up and builders’ vans were instructed to park in Downing Place. I also discovered that a condition of the planning consent was that all deliveries must be completed by 7.30 am. Unfortunately, this condition only applied after the establishment first opened for business.

This was a common sight at 8.30 am in the first week of opening

So at 8.30 am on that first morning when a brewer’s lorry was obstructing the contraflow lane I wished to use, I decided to pay a visit. Perhaps I was a little angry, and probably the newly recruited Manageress had been told nothing of the planning conditions by her bosses, but the result was that I was asked to leave, and not given an opportunity to explain my case. I rang the City Planning Department to explain the situation and I believe a visit was made.

The following day yet another vehicle was obstructing the cycle lane, and so I made another call to the City Council. I believe I was not the only one to complain to the Council and, in fact, many employees at the Guildhall who cycle must have had similar experiences to me.

Following a visit to the Rat and Parrot by the City’s Planning Enforcement Officer, Sue Finlayson, a breach of conditions notice was served on 13 December and the pub was given the statutory 28 days to comply. I was puzzled as to why they had 28 days to comply but, clearly, in most cases of failure to comply with conditions an immediate change could be difficult.

Unlike an enforcement notice, with a breach of conditions notice there is no right of appeal if conditions are still broken after the 28 days. It is an offence liable to a fine of up to £1,000 and this fine could be repeated for each subsequent offence!

If you are a regular or occasional user of Downing Street and witness a ‘breach of conditions’, the City Planning Department would like to hear from you. The contact details are:

Sue Finlayson, Planning Enforcement Officer, Cambridge City Council, The Guildhall, Cambridge CB2 3JQ
phone Cambridge (01223) 457163 or e-mail

Please tell Sue the date, time and vehicle involved as well as your contact details.

I have seen no blatant abuse so far (13 January), but I have heard from people who pass before 8 that it is not always clear at 7.30. Planning controls may be an effective way of preventing obstruction. Perhaps some faint praise is due to the Rat and Parrot, and perhaps the City planners should use these powers more widely.

Let’s hope that sense prevails and that the Rat and Parrot will abide by the agreed planning conditions in future.

Jim Chisholm