And there goes another one.
The View pub, on the Selsdon Road, what was once called the Railway View, because it has a view of, well… has called last orders for a final time, the business crushed by the changing economics of the beer and entertainment industry and probably, according to a report from the BBC, the weight of business rates charged by the Tory government.
Croydon, like all other parts of the country, has been losing its old rub-a-dubs at an alarming rate, especially since in London property owners can make far more money, far more quickly, by flogging off the building and land and stacking a few flats on the site than they ever can from selling bottles of pale ale and packets of pork scratchings.
Not all pub conversions work, though: Morrisons’ attempt to impose the umpteenth express superstore on South Croydon by taking over the landmark Red Deer pub on the Brighton Road appears to have failed. Barely three years since the old boozer was converted by the supermarket chain with special offers on impossibly cheap takeaway wine and lagers, they now want to sell-up and allow the site to be bulldozed for more flats.
Morrisons might be beating a hasty retreat because Lidl are about to arrive just up the road in a purpose-built supermarket (with flats on top, naturally).
But the Red Deer demolition scheme has been blocked by the council’s planning committee, at least for the time being.
Given the architectural vandalism which the Whitgift Foundation was allowed to do to the probably more significant Swan and Sugarloaf pub, also on the Brighton Road (and now a Tesco Express), the intervention of the planning committee over the Red Deer building is to be welcomed.
And it’s not the only Victorian- or Edwardian-built pub building that the council has saved from being wrecked lately: all 10 committee members rejected conversion demolition for another Selsdon Road pub, the Stag and Hounds.
In reaching their decision, the elected councillors on the planning committee dismissed the advice of the council’s officials, taking a dislike to the high-density of flats and houses on the site of the building, in what in any case ought to be a conservation area of shops and homes.
Waddon councillor Joy Prince, a member of the planning committee, described the proposals from a developer as, “This has 21 bedrooms on the site of a pocket handkerchief. I think this is over-development, it is amazing how the application reaches the magic number of nine properties, just one less of that required to provide affordable housing.”
The same meeting also rejected (the latest) plans to develop the site of the Portmanor pub, a favourite of Crystal Palace football supporters on their way to matches at Selhurst Park.
The hoardings went up around The View just before the weekend. The loss of The View seems a particular shame, since the building is in reasonable condition and the pub appeared to serve a niche part of South Croydon. Perhaps too niche, with the building and its garden offering a tempting slice of real estate for property developers.
But the council’s planning committee’s objections to over-development are only speed humps in the seemingly unstoppable decline of the neighbourhood pub.
Even ostensibly successful pubs, which have moved with the times and adopted trendy, gastropub menus, such as The Glamorgan on Cherry Orchard Road, have gone out of business.
A report from the BBC’s You and Yours Radio 4 programme today found that four pubs are closing every day – many of them because of the burden of business rates.
More than 11,000 pubs have closed since April 2010 – the last time that the government conducted a re-appraisal of business rates. And business analysts interviewed for the BBC programme believe that when business rates are re-assessed in April, many pub landlords, particularly in London, face eye-watering increases.
The fundamental part of the problem for businesses is that valuations are being based on turnovers in 2008, before the global economic downturn, and the double-dip recession created by former Chancellor Gideon Osborne’s austerity policies. The pub business has been particularly hard-hit by the economics of the last decade.
The Tory-led government delayed the business rates reassessment that was due in 2015, undoubtedly out of political expediency, since it might have damaged their prospects at that year’s General Election. With pubs in London facing a 43 per cent hike in business rates this year, according to the BBC, it is easy to see why.
Mark Rigby, the chief executive of CVS, the agency which conducted the research, told the programme, “There is no doubt about it anything that keeps operating costs high and not reflective of current circumstances is going to be a factor in terms of the long-term health of the business.”
So we can expect to see more Croydon pubs calling last orders very soon, with the resultant loss of jobs, community and character, and all regardless of the best efforts of the council’s planning committee.
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