Saved: ‘Britain’s heritage and a home away from home’

Landlord Andy Bird outside the Chesham Arms

Landlord Andy Bird outside the Chesham Arms - Credit: Archant

A pub - The Chesham Arms - which would have been turned into flats if regulars hadn’t mounted a two-year campaign to save it, has opened to the public.

The pub threw open its doors on the hottest day of the year last Wednesday, following an extensive renovation by its new landlord Andy Bird.

Punters were shocked in October 2012 after property developer Mukund Patel boarded up the 150-year old pub in Mehetabel Road, Homerton, and went on to rip out the bar and turn it into flats and two offices without planning permission.

The Save the Chesham Action Group was formed and a legal battle supported by Hackney Council ensued, in a campaign to make sure the pub could be preserved for future generations.

Last October the government’s Planning Inspectorate upheld the council’s decision to recognise the pub as an “asset of community value” under the Localism Act, and in March the council granted the pub extra protection by issuing an Article 4 Direction, meaning the building’s ‘recreational use’ could not be changed without planning permission.

Campaigners were left with no reassurance the building would ever be used as a pub again, but last month Mr Patel granted a 15-year lease to publican Andy Bird who has converted it back to its former glory.

Martyn Williams, who led the campaign, is impressed with the revamp.

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He said: “If it wasn’t for our campaign, it would be flats there’s no question. It was a team effort and it persuaded the council to stand up for it. If we had stood back and said, “Oh well it’s just one of those things,” I don’t think the council would have taken the action they did.

“It’s been a team effort and a community thing, and it’s one of those things that unless local people do it we lose something that is quite special about Britain, a pub is a home away from home.”

He continued: “You can end up chatting to anyone there, your circle of friends seem to be much the same as you, but in a pub you can end up standing next to someone who’s completely different to you, who does something you have possibly never heard of.

“It seems to be a place people put their defences down and that doesn’t seem to happen anywhere else.

“It’s been really nice to drop in and have a beer and bump into a few people, and even if you’re not going to the pub there’s something much nicer about walking down the end of the road and seeing it with lights on and people spilling out of it.

“If no one wanted the pub, then fine - close it down. But it was clear it does have a long history and there are people who remember drinking in there back 30 or 40 years.