Red Deer locals look north for help to rebuff Morrisons

Another landmark Croydon pub is under threat of takeover from a supermarket chain. And our local councillors’ response – where they have bothered to respond – is effectively to shrug their shoulders and say there’s nothing that they can, or will, do.

The perfect site for (yet another) supermarket? The under threat Red Deer in South Croydon

The perfect site for (yet another) supermarket? The under threat Red Deer in South Croydon

But evidence from further up the A23 suggests that if councillors help to organise the community, the pillaging of key property sites in our community can be deterred, and even rebuffed.

The Red Deer, on the Brighton Road in South Croydon – not so long ago the star of a national television advert – is the latest target for a supermarket chain (in this case Morrisons). No matter that there’s already several other “express” supermarkets along a short stretch of this road, nor that Morrisons is building a large new store at Fiveways.

In the past year or so, Lidl has bought the Good Companions at Hamsey Green, while barely half a mile up the road from the Red Deer, Tesco has desecrated the Swan and Sugarloaf. That notable Victorian pub interior was ripped out by Tesco before they opened, and since they started trading they have begun the long, slow and painful process of ripping the guts out of the businesses of many local independent traders.

Nearby, the Woodman and The Star are old pubs, with differing reputations perhaps, that stand waiting for a property speculator to assess when the time might be right to stick an ugly block of small-roomed flats on them.

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, reckons that 16 pubs are closing each week, squeezed by adverse business conditions, high excise duties on drinks, and – especially in London and the south-east where property values continue to climb – pressures to develop their site for bigger profits.

In the case of the Red Deer, local businesses, having had to withstand the economic downturn and Gideon Osborne’s imposed double dip, are now very worried that a branch of Morrison’s on their doorstep will undercut their prices and take away their custom.

Benedict Selvaratnam runs the Wine Cellar on Station Parade on the Sanderstead Road. He wrote of his concern to Inside Croydon, copying in four local councillors in Sanderstead and Croham wards. He got just two responses from the Town Hall.

One was from former IRA gun-runner Maria Gatland, the other from soon-to-be-mayor Yvette Hopley, whose advice was, basically, there’s nothing she can, or will, do.

“I understand your concerns,” Hopley wrote. That’s nice of her. “As you are probably aware the Sanderstead councillors have been supporting resident’s [sic] concerns over the Lidl applications for the former site of the Good Companions.

“… As you are probably aware under the current regulation a supermarket can open within the premises of a pub (because it is the same classification) without requiring a planning application.”

Selvaratnam had expressed understandable concern over the proliferation of branches of the large supermarket chains, to the detriment of local family businesses such as his own. “Please can you advise me on how best to make people aware of the long-term implications of allowing a supermarket to operate at the Red Deer site, and any way I can help in combating the demise of local independent shops?” he had asked.

Maria Gatland: supports independent local shops. But it takes more than a petition

Maria Gatland: supports independent local shops. But it takes more than a petition

Gatland’s suggestion of a petition might be a start, but it did not do the residents who opposed Lidl or the Swan and Sugarloaf redevelopment much good.

However, on Brixton Hill, a more energetic campaign, helped by local councillors in Lambeth and even supported by their MP, Chuka Umanna, looks like it may have helped to save another historic old boozer, the George IV. In the past week, Lambeth Council has used recent legislation to deter plans for (yet another) Tesco Express and to list the pub as an “asset of community value”.

“Lambeth’s decision to list George IV site as an asset of community value is fantastic news – we place incredible value on the unique character of our area and the listing shows that,” Umanna said.

Why couldn’t Croydon Council, and our councillors, who all received more than £11,000 a year of public dosh to represent their ward residents’ views and interests, manage to do something similar?

Interestingly, Steve O’Connell, another Croydon councillor and the London Assembly Member for the area, recently announced a campaign to preserve historic pubs from closure and re-development. When asked about the Red Deer, he claimed he did not know what the community’s views are. O’Connell was once Britain’s most over-paid councillor, having three publicly funded positions and pocketing more than £110,000. So it’s good to see that he has his finger on the pulse in Croydon. Not.

Inside Croydon asked the Save the George IV Campaign for their step-by-step guide to how they saved their local. This is what they suggested:

  1. It’s worth setting up an online petition. This can be done quickly using a site like ipetition. It won’t stop Tesco [or Morrisons], but it is a quick and effective way of demonstrating local opposition. I would also suggest you word it so that it calls on the council to recognise the importance of local pubs, and to work with the community to protect them.
  2. Secondly, start the process to get the pub listed as an “asset of community value”. This means that, were the pub ever to come up for sale, the community would get first dibs on buying it. It also makes a clear statement about how much the pub is valued by the community. More info can be found here.
  3. Use social media to spread the word. Particularly Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Since the change from pub to supermarket doesn’t require any change of use application, you can’t object to it. But the supermarket will need to apply for planning permission for signage, refrigeration units, possibly a car park, etc. They will also need to apply for an alcohol licence. Make sure you keep an eye on the licensing and planning notices. Object to everything, and use social media to get other people to object. Many people won’t have ever objected to applications before, so it’s helpful to write stuff like this so they know how to do it.
  5. Work with local councillors and ask them to “call in” planning and licensing applications so that they have to come before a committee, rather than being rubber-stamped [this is something which Croydon Councillor Tim Pollard has done over the Lidl site at Hamsey Green in the past month]. This really helps to delay things – what supermarket’s going to open without signage, refrigeration or an alcohol licence?
  6. Work with your local media to get regular stories about the pub into the press.

With the local community association and business groups opposed to having another supermarket chain in the area, residents in South Croydon will need to move speedily to save the Red Deer.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Business, Community associations, Maria Gatland, Planning, Property, Pubs, Sanderstead, South Croydon, South Croydon Community Association, Steve O'Connell, Tim Pollard, Yvette Hopley and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Red Deer locals look north for help to rebuff Morrisons

  1. ndavies144 says:

    It’s worth remembering that supermarket companies will try to seduce councillors and locals by making out that they will bring employment and prosperity to the area.

    A lot of people fall for this, though if they gave it even a second’s thought they’d figure out that another supermarket won’t make us eat any more food. All they are doing is moving market share around a bit, and the jobs that go with it, too often replacing good jobs with bad.

    This sort of nonsense needs rebutting the moment it surfaces.

  2. Turning the Red Deer into a supermarket is going to make that junction even more dangerous, which is dreadful given the numbers of children and senior citizens that cross there.

    Tesco at Swan and Sugarloaf regularly causes gridlock in South End, just as we predicted it would. Tesco South End has taken trade from small shops – we think about £60,000 per week and it has stopped footfall to the shops beyond Tesco on the same side of the street. The shop premises next door were superficially done up as part of the deal but no-one wants to rent them and the doors to the flats above are still boarded up with unsightly metal panels.

    We need free parking for 30 minutes throughout Croydon to revive existing local shops owned by local entrepreneurs, not more businesses that are going to take money out of the town.

  3. mraemiller says:

    Sad to see the Red Deer go but the only thing I found notable about the interior of the Swan and Sugarloaf was how so many unemployed people could sit for so long in a public bar buying so few pints without being thrown out. The place was a dive.

    It had many diverse function rooms with no functions in, no one had redone the interior in living memory, it was large and unwelcoming, it was in the wrong place … and while many other new trendy bars opened up further up the road the S&S remained a time capsule.

    Nothing stands still, you’ve got to invest. I vividly remember how the S&S had for years a faded cardboard sign sat lopsided in one of the upstairs windows telling the the world that “B&B here”. Like that was really going to pull the punters, wasn’t it?

    Not that I’ve ever seen the bedrooms of the S&S but if they were anything like the downstairs I expect even bedbugs would say “sorry this place is too downmarket”. To be fair I hadn’t been in there for a few years, but that is because I had been in there before. If you ask me Tescos have done us a favour taking over what was little more than a money losing eyesore.

    It is horrific the rate at which pubs are closing. But on the other hand some pubs are indeed horrific.

    • It was Croydon Council who determined that the Victorian original fireplaces, seating and, especially, the stained glass of the windows in the Swan & Sugarloaf were notable and worthy of preservation.

      The owners of the freehold are the Whitgift Foundation, an organisation which does not seem able to maximise the potential of its assets with any shrewd investment strategy, hence the S&S as a pub was run into the ground to the point of decrepitude.

      • mraemiller says:

        I dont think you can entirely blame the Whitgift foundation. Some of these big old pubs are white elephants of a bygone era. When the S&S was built it was an important stage post between London and the south coast… now it’s just a very large pub that’s not central. Or was till it folded. They cost a lot to maintain and it might be an idea to knock some of them down and build something else. We are obsessed with the past in this country. Honestly I never liked the place much.

      • ndavies144 says:

        Though it is easy (and usually perfectly justified) to blame the Whitgift Foundation for many things, much of the blame for pub closures lies firmly at the door of the pubcos.

        Many of these companies are property management and development firms first and foremost and squeeze their tenants with high rents and expensive supply chain arrangements leaving publicans with precious little spare cash to invest in their businesses. A pub starts going downhill, decent publicans walk away and it often ends up with one of the trade’s more feckless specimens until the pub fails completely.

        It then gets sold to a supermarket company.

        Sadly many, like mraemiller, will say it was useless as a pub and good riddance. What it really needed was a company interested in running pubs and prepared to put in some investment and decent management and get it returning a decent profit.

        There’s a piece further down this blog about the Green Dragon. It is popular and successful because it is properly and imaginatively managed. It could quite easily have died years ago in the hands of a bad guvnor more interested in sampling his wares and entertaining a few low life cronies who hang around the market. The company would have long sold it as unviable and it would be yet another Tesco by now.

        • Pretty much agree with all of that.

          As far as the Swan & Sugarloaf is concerned, there’s another example of an imaginatively managed, re-purposed old boozer staring at it right down the Brighton Road, not as far away as the Green Dragon: The Tree House, with its pub restaurant and night club, has re-invented itself pretty successfully.

          Poor recent management of a pub ought not to jeopardise a landmark building – and its historic fittings – when they are of genuine architectural value.

          To demonstrate how malign the landlords at the Swan & Sugarloaf were, work to fix the roof, and various other signs of decay, only took place after the pub had closed and had been “invaded” by squatters.

          It all worked out easier, and more profitable, to unload the premises on to Tesco.

          And the point here, more than the fundamental issues of the pub business, is how it serves the interests of local residents and independent businesses to have the proliferation of chain supermarkets in the area.

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