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.