ROBERT CANNING on the closure of another much-loved Croydon local, the Ship of Fools
Croydon’s pub-goers are well used to seeing their locals closed and boarded up or turned into flats or supermarkets. Yesterday, it was the turn of JD Wetherspoon’s Ship of Fools on London Road, West Croydon, to sail into oblivion. After 14 years, this large and welcoming pub will now be converted into a Sainsbury’s Local.
What made this particular pub closure more difficult to stomach than a dodgy pint was that the Ship was a popular, well-run community local which was profitable.
Hundreds of the Ship’s customers packed into the pub for one last drink yesterday evening. Balloons adorned the bar thanking drinkers for their custom and wishing them good luck. The mood was lively as customers and staff remembered the good times.
Liz Tuffey, the manager, and her team had worked hard to make the pub a success. This was recognised last year when the Ship of Fools was named best pub in the borough under Croydon Council’s Best Bar None scheme. Yet all of this counted for nothing when last orders was called for a final time.
What really puzzles people is how their community local could be converted into a supermarket without the need for planning permission. It happened with the Swan and Sugarloaf in South Croydon, it happened with the Good Companions in Sanderstead, and it is happening with pubs across the country at a rate of nearly two every day of the week.
Many supermarkets have exploited the fact that planning permission for pubs is the same as for retail stores, so there’s rarely need for any special application.
The West Croydon locals were angry that there had been no need for the owners to consult them or to assess the impact on the existing local independent shops in London Road of having yet another supermarket. This shows an urgent need to change current planning legislation to stop successful pubs from being converted into supermarkets.
Any change to planning law would come too late to save the Ship of Fools. It can only be hoped that the Ship’s former customers choose to find a new local rather than stay at home with cheap booze bought from their new Sainsbury’s.
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- ‘They’re flogging our cultural gems’ (standard.co.uk)