£1bn water pipeline could put UK's #1 gastropub out of business

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

HARP water pipe: Ribble Valley The Parker's Arms fears closure

Related tags Lancashire Finance Legislation

Plans to replace a water pipeline running through Lancashire will be a "complete disaster" for Britain’s No.1 gastropub, the Parker’s Arms, according to its licensee.

The Haweswater Acqueduct Renewal Project (HARP) runs through large swathes of Ribble Valley – and will involve major work on the road running through the village of Newton-in-Bowland, leading directly to the Parkers Arms.

The £1.75bn project will replace the deteriorating water mains, which are now over 70 years old, to keep water flowing through the 110-kilometre pipeline which runs from the Lake District to Greater Manchester.

Kathy Smith, co-owner of the Parker’s Arms which was crowned as Britain’s no.1 gastropub​ at the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards 2023, said works on the new pipeline would cause “heavy traffic” on the one road feeding past the pub.

She said this would cause “absolute chaos” to the renowned venue, which is the only business in the village.

Smith also said that lorries would block up the road from Clitheroe to the pub, meaning guests would not be able to get there.

She feared the works would be a “complete disaster” for the gastropub and could lead to its closure.

This follows the Government's recent decision not to call in United Utilities' Haweswater Aqueduct Resilience Programme (HARP) planning application for national inspection.

Ribble Valley Council welcomed the decision by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP, to let it manage the application and conditions locally.

'Absolute chaos'

The licensee added: “This is my livelihood. I've been honing this business for 15 years, and it looks like it might just be for nothing now, because who is going to be able to get to my pub?”

She added that it is the pub’s “great reputation” that is currently helping it keep its head afloat as inflation, staffing issues and soaring energy costs ravage the sector.

But the water pipe would “reduce that to nil”, she added, asking: “Would you sit behind lorry after lorry after lorry to go to the pub for a pie and a pint?”

The gastropub has previously been recognised by awards including the AA Guide, Top 100 Restaurants,​ and the Good Food Guide.

While a few months of work wouldn’t be an issue for Smith, she feared the water pipe project would take years.

She said: “The habit of coming to the Parkers Arms​ is going to be lost in people’s heads, and they’re just going to go to alternative places.”

Even if the works were to cease at weekends, Smith said this wouldn’t be enough: “I can’t make a living just two days a week.”

The situation would be a “terrible strain” on people’s mental health, she added. What’s more, the owner doubted whether the road would hold up under heavy traffic as it was “full of potholes”.

While Smith wasn’t scared, she did think the pub should be approached and told in detail about how they were supposed to live for the next few years.

Limbo state

“What’s the outcome?” she asked. “Am I going to get compensation? What’s going to happen?”

Smith also owns the lease to the pub. She said: “I'm not planning on selling the lease, but it means that my lease is worthless?”

If offered compensation, she would still not find that to be an acceptable solution.

She said: “I understand they need water, but it’s an area of huge, outstanding national beauty, and it’s going to impact the environment a great deal.

“Nobody’s given me a proposed start date and a proposed finish date, I’m just in limbo.”

A spokesperson for Ribble Valley Borough Council said: “HARP is a scheme to replace sections of the Haweswater Pipeline that runs from Cumbria to Greater Manchester.

“Ribble Valley Borough Council is aware that the Haweswater Aqueduct Resilience Programme is a large-scale scheme which will have an impact on residents, land, and businesses, and the Council will implement measures as far as possible to mitigate this impact. 

The spokesperson said that a significant level of consultation​ with the council and residents has been undertaken by United Utilities in the past four years.

Community engagement

They said that approval of the HARP application was subject to the agreement of the raft of conditions (58 in total) and legal agreements imposed by the council, relating to all aspects of construction and mitigation of the impact of this project on residents and businesses.

United Utilities, the provider of water and wastewater services in the North West of England, will be heavily involved in the scheme. A spokesperson said: “HARP is a critical major infrastructure project which will ensure a sustainable supply of water to our customers across Cumbria, Lancashire​ and Greater Manchester for years to come.

“We have consulted extensively over the last three years, and we do understand the concerns that some people have.

“We have listened to feedback and amended our proposed plans where possible and will continue to engage with local communities throughout this ongoing process.

“We know that the potential impacts of a construction scheme of this scale are not to be taken lightly and are absolutely committed to working with stakeholders to minimise any impacts and ensure we remain considerate of their homes, businesses, and the environment.”

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