A family-run East Cambridgeshire café and bar is closing due to financial pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, cost of living increases and a recent planning application refusal.

The Cherry Tree, in Haddenham, first opened its doors in 2019. It has since employed more than 20 local people in full and part-time roles. 

The owners announced on cafe's website and Facebook page that it will be shutting for good on January 14.

In a statement, a spokesperson for The Cherry Tree said: "It is with sincere regret that we have to announce the closure of The Haddenham Cherry, with effect from Sunday January 14.

Ely Standard: The Cherry Tree in Haddenham is closing on January 14

"We should start by saying that over the last few years we have been overwhelmed with the kindness, loyalty and support of the local and wider community."

The owners of the café also shared that they have "wrestled with a series of unprecedented challenges" while running The Cherry Tree.

These include "the Covid pandemic, the huge cost of living increases, and a major change in customers' social habits".

The Cherry Tree hosted a midwifery advice clinic, offered services through the Covid-19 lockdowns, and organised events for various charities.

Ely Standard: Chris Taylor and Chris Catley

In the closure announcement, a spokesperson said that the owners have "explored a range of options to enable us to continue".

The options included "seeking external investment from interested locals, seeking an external buyer for the business and premise, and seeking planning approval for the development of the existing car park.

The business' hopes for the car park were a "new and improved tarmacked car park, and much needed enhancements to the outdoor space. 

"The proposed sale of the development plot, allowing for a four-bedroom detached house to be built, would have provided the necessary capital injection to allow the business to continue for many years to come," the statement concludes.

Ely Standard: The Cherry Tree management team: Siobhan Taylor, Chris Taylor, Chris Catley, Hannah Taylor-Catley

However, East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) rejected the application. Cambridgeshire Highways also lodged an objection to the plans. 

A spokesperson for ECDC said: "East Cambridgeshire District Council’s overarching aim is to provide the best service it can for residents.

"With regards to regulatory issues, such as planning and licensing, we have a duty of care to follow statutory legislation and guidance.

"We can also only take account of the information provided to us at the time.

Ely Standard: The award-winning team behind The Cherry Tree

"The application to build a property on the car park of the Cherry Tree public house in Haddenham has been refused on a number of grounds which take account of the Local Plan and the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

"The grounds for refusal of planning permission included a significant loss of garden space for the existing café and public house, which could potentially impact their commercial viability and that of the premises in the long-term. 

"These include a failure to demonstrate safe and convenient access to the proposed car park; and significant and oppressive impact on a neighbouring property."

The spokesperson added that ECDC "liaised with the applicant to request amendments to the plans which could address the highways safety issues.

"However, the proposed amendments were not considered sufficient to satisfy the planning guidelines, and the plans were refused as they were contrary to the NPPF.

"The need for this new development in order to help support the existing business at The Cherry Tree was not part of the formal justification for the proposal.

"In order for us to consider this, a viability assessment would have been required.

However, in this instance the necessary assessments and a proposal to formally link the development with the existing business were not provided.

"With all planning applications we are mindful of the many personal stories that sit behind each case, but we must operate within the legislative framework and base our decisions on information available to us at the time.

"In all planning decisions, the applicant does have the right to appeal the decision if they choose to do so."