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Conversion plans at The Cyclist in Sudbury given green-light despite petition calling for site to be retained as community pub

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The conversion of a former Sudbury pub into a mixed commercial and holiday let development – described as necessary to create a more sustainable business model – has been given the go-ahead.

Babergh District Council’s planning committee agreed with their officer’s recommendation to approve a change-of-use application at The Cyclist in Ballingdon Street.

The permission will allow the existing café to be adapted into a retail outlet and office space, while an outbuilding will be converted to create a one-bedroom holiday let accommodation.

The Cyclist Café in Sudbury. Pictured: Owner Theo Bird. Picture: Mecha Morton.
The Cyclist Café in Sudbury. Pictured: Owner Theo Bird. Picture: Mecha Morton.

Approved yesterday by nine votes to one, the plans had faced opposition from a formal community petition, which garnered 233 signatures.

In addition to parking and traffic concerns, the petition objected to the loss of the site as a pub, which it had previously operated as under the King’s Head, and the impact of the new proposal on nearby shops.

However, The Cyclist owner Theo Bird said the business had been running at a loss in its current form, and that the coronavirus pandemic had eliminated any prospect of making it profitable.

“We, therefore, need to make a more sustainable financial model for the business, not just so that it can survive, but so it can thrive,” Mr Bird told the committee meeting.

“I can see where the petitioners are coming from, but when we bought the site, it was effectively an insolvent pub.

“I know there’s a lot of romance about the good old days, but it’s just not on the cards.

“We’ve done the statistics. To make it successful, you’d need to sell 15 kegs of beer a week. The licence side of the café trade, we struggled to sell half a keg.

“I think there’s a massive gap between the aspirations of the petition and the reality.”

Mr Bird stated that a café offering would remain in the retail area of the site, and that the improved financial situation would enable an uplift in employment from three part-time to four full-time roles.

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