Campaigners euphoric at Chesham Arms ruling - but it could still never be a pub again

The Save the Chesham Arms campaign group.

The Save the Chesham Arms campaign group. - Credit: Archant

Pub-lovers who fought to save the historic back-street boozer where comedians Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield used to write sketches are celebrating after a landmark ruling decreed it could not be split up into flats.

A government planning inspector has declared the loss of the Chesham Arms in Mehatabel Road, Homerton, would breach a list of planning policies at national, regional and local level.

A year ago punters were shocked to find the pub had been boarded up by property developer Mukund Patel, and went on to form the Save the Chesham Action Group.

In the meantime Mr Patel transformed the first floor of the 150-year-old building into a flat and the ground floor bar into “two office suites” without planning permission.

He challenged a council enforcement notice ordering him to stop using the first floor as a flat, leading to a three-day Planning Inspectorate public inquiry.

But last Thursday a planning inspector recognised the pub’s status as an “asset of community value” under the Localism Act – in what is thought to be a legal first – and dismissed Mr Patel’s appeal to use the first floor as a flat.

Chairman of the Save the Chesham Campaign, Jonathan Sockett, said: “The inspector could not have made it clearer that local planning policies mean this is a pub that deserves to be protected,” he said.

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“We now look forward to the developer abandoning his unrealistic plans to convert the building to flats and instead putting the pub on the market so it can be re-launched and enjoyed by all.”

The pub was the first building in the borough to be listed by Hackney Council as an “asset of community value” under the Localism Act last December, recognising its importance as a social and community space and offering limited legal protection.

However Mr Patel has been allowed to continue renting out the flat and office until March 2016.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Patel, consultant Tony Allan said they were disappointed with the decision.

He said: “In effect what happens in 2016 in planning terms is the whole of the building reverts back to a pub, it doesn’t mean my client has to open it as a pub, and there’s no requirement to undo any of the internal works he has done to create a pub layout.

“We have a little bit of time before we need to do anything specific and of course throughout that time there’s a rental stream.The inspector could never force it to start operating as a pub again.”

The pub was built in the 1860s when Mehetabel and Isabella Road were on land within the grounds of Sutton House.