Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Lord Clyde saved from demolition
Earlier this year I reported that a planning application to demolish the Lord Clyde pub on the Evelyn estate and build a block of flats in its place had been rejected by Lewisham Council’s planning department.
Four reasons were given by the council, which were basically the loss of a heritage asset and the impact this loss would have on the surrounding area; the loss of a public house, boxing gym and meeting rooms, which are all considered valuable amenity assets and particularly important for an area which suffers deprivation to this extent; the design, scale and massing of the proposed building, and the poor quality of living accommodation proposed.
The developer appealed, but when the decision was published last week, it seems the Planning Inspector agreed with Lewisham Council on most of its grounds for the rejection.
Even though the Lord Clyde is not listed either nationally or locally, its only heritage importance being that it has been identified by the council as ‘an undesignated heritage asset’, the value of the building from a heritage point of view was agreed by the inspector. He noted that the building was fine example of a Victorian pub, he pointed out the prominent parapet inscribed with the pub’s name and said that the building was important because it provided architectural variety within an area otherwise dominated by residential buildings.
The design of the proposed replacement building was too bulky and would dominate the street, the inspector said. The replacement of a locally-important building with a new one that failed to respect adjoining buildings was contrary to current planning law, in his opinion. (I must say that this particular point was music to my ears, although if we could see it applied to a few more developments I would be much obliged!)
It’s heartening to see that the representations made by members of the local community were given appropriate weight in the inspector’s decision. In its application, the developer claimed that the pub ‘does not provide any positive contribution to the area’, incensing the landlord and prompting him to start his own campaign, which successfully garnered significant support.
The representations convinced the inspector, who was also impressed by the boxing gym and meeting rooms in the upper floors of the pub, which he saw on his visit and accepted made a valuable contribution to the local community, in particular to young people.
It was particularly heartening to read the inspector’s comment that although the developer stated the public house was no longer viable, no evidence to substantiate that claim had been submitted. All too often such claims about viability of businesses are taken as read rather than being examined properly and challenged – we’ve seen it recently in claims by betting shops that they occupy what would otherwise be empty retail units, when in fact there has been no testing of the market whatsoever.
He also pointed out that no attempt had been made to find alternative premises for the boxing gym or meeting rooms, and that without their presence, the community’s ‘life chances’ would be reduced, contrary to London Plan policies. Moreover, the proposal would be contrary to other policies which seek to protect social infrastructure provision.
What will happen next is anyone’s guess. It would be great if the building were sold to someone who was actually willing to invest in it and spend some money on refurbishing the pub and upper floors, but I guess that would be pretty unlikely unless we have any kindly benefactors lurking around locally. Perhaps it would be a prime candidate to be owned by some kind of local cooperative or trust fund, run by local people who could improve and strengthen the community facilities, renovate the pub and come up with some new ideas to help keep it going and attract new custom.
A campaign has been launched to save the Birkbeck Tavern pub in Leytonstone from being turned into flats
Regulars and staff with Jess Dickenson (right) who has started an online petition to save the The Birkbeck Tavern.
A CAMPAIGN has been launched to save a popular pub from being turned into flats.
The Birkbeck Tavern, in Langthorne Road, Leytonstone, is currently on sale for £575,000 after owner Sarumdale Ltd went into administration in June.
The pub has been growing in popularity in recent years, helped by its reinvention as a music venue, but staff say most potential buyers who have visited the building are property developers.
Resident Jess Dickenson, 33, who lives a few doors down from the pub, has now launched an online petition calling on Waltham Forest Council to reject any future planning applications to turn the site into flats.
It has been signed by more than 450 people so far.
She said: “It’s a brilliant pub, a beautiful building and an important part of the community.
“A lot of people are very unhappy about it. Not only is it used by local residents and families but it’s one of the main pubs for Leyton Orient FC supporters and it’s a thriving music venue.
“I realise it may be a long-shot but we have to try and do something.”
Ms Dickenson said she was inspired by a similar campaign to save The Lord Clyde pub in Deptford.
The council there and the government’s planning inspectorate both rejected an application to turn the venue into flats after a vocal neighbourhood campaign.
Stephen Ferguson, co-manager of the Birkbeck and the What’s Cookin’ local music promotions group, said: “Unfortunately the majority of people who have expressed an interest in buying it are property developers, although there have been a couple of publicans too.
“At a time when so many pubs are closing down it would be a terrible loss if the Birkbeck closed.
“We took on the pub about a year ago and it’s been going very well.
“It’s important as a music venue and we’ve developed a reputation for its real ale that’s been mentioned in the Good Beer Guide.
“We were looking to develop things further and have stuff like live theatre but we don’t know what’s going to happen now.”
Sarumdale Ltd, a small pub chain, says it hit financial difficulties after it took out an interest rate “swap” alongside a loan with Barclays.
The bank denies Sarumdale’s claims that it effectively forced the firm into signing up to the policy.
Visit www.change.org/petitions/waltham-forest-council-save-the-birkbeck-tavern to view the petition.
Please sign the petition