CAMRA accuses planning officer of breaching council policy over Hackney pub plans
PUBLISHED: 19:00 07 January 2014
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has accused a planning officer of breaching Hackney Council policy by recommending a 149-year old pub is turned into a block of flats.
CAMRA is urging the council to reject proposals to turn the Penshurst Arms in Victoria Park into a block of six flats with two eco-homes in the garden when the application is heard at planning committee tomorrow night. The group’s local pubs’ preservation officer, James Watson, argues planning officer Michael Garvey is diverging from council policy which seeks to protect public houses – which are in the same category as churches, mosques and green open spaces – against change of use.
Mr Watson believes the application demonstrates what’s wrong with the planning system.
He said: “It was marketed as a development opportunity on the presumption that planning permission would be granted for change of use from a pub to a set of flats.
“We see this kind of thing all the time, where a developer pays over-inflated prices for our pubs so they can turn them into something different; the problem is you could take any pub and it would never ever complete with the residential use of the land.
“The Wenlock Arms was going to be demolished in 2011 but the council stepped in and recognised that people who went there weren’t only generating something to the Hackney economy but also the feel good factor; people getting together with their friends, neighbours and family and enjoying what a good pub has to offer, which is socialising and interacting – which to me is priceless.”
But the applicant, Hugo Warner who lives two doors down, argues the pub has not been in use since 2000 when the landlord – who passed away last year – opened another pub, the Village Tap just down the road.
“My neighbour doesn’t want it to be a pub and neither does anyone else who lives around here, other than CAMRA who don’t live around here,” he said.
“They are the only ones who responded to the consultation in terms of change of use; some people like the scheme, some people don’t, regardless of that no one has missed it as a pub.”
Mr Warner, who has worked in hospitality for 25 years and sold the Benugo restaurant chain two years ago, argues the building is in such a dilapidated state that the only financial way of saving the locally-listed building is to build flats.
“If there was a remote possibility of turning it into a successful pub that’s what I’d do, but the amount of money you need to spend on that place to bring it up to any level is punitive beyond any hospitality means.”
The application was deferred from committee last month because the conservation area advisory committee had not been invited to scrutinise the plans.
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