The community want it as a pub, a successful businessman and landlord wants to run it. As KEN TOWL reports from last night’s #SaveTheGlam meeting, who needs more unaffordable flats in East Croydon?
In the febrile world of rocketing land prices, there will always be those who see a business opportunity where others see the depredation of a community.
That particular conflict is, right now, being fought over a 19th century building on Cherry Orchard Road. Those in the latter group, The Save the Glamorgan group, met at the Town Hall last night, a mixture of concerned local residents – and their contributions proved to be very interesting – and the local CAMRA members who are, of course, perennially worried about pub closures.
The meeting was treated to a recap of how the Glamorgan had arrived at its current sorry state. Rodger Molyneux, the landlord of the award-winning Carshalton community pub The Hope, described how he had approached the landowners in order to take on the lease of the pub after the couple who had been running it as a gastropub until last year decided to return to South Africa.
Negotiations went well at first, according to Molyneux, but then stalled and it became apparent that the owner had other plans. More money could be made through the sale and development of the land for flats.
The pub was suddenly boarded up. Squatters turned up and occupied the building (one resident interrupted the meeting at this point to claim that he had been threatened by some of the squatters).
Rats, too, thrived in the empty building and local residents were concerned about this.
Lead had been taken from the roof, exacerbating the declining state of the pub even further. Signs went up in June claiming that the building was to be demolished.
In July, the Save the Glamorgan group met for the first time and, with the help of Addiscombe councillor Sean Fitzsimons, applied for Asset of Community Value status for the pub. A decision on this is pending, and in the meantime, the pub is, at least officially, safe from demolition.
Locals expressed their suspicions that the “squatters” were, in reality, guarding the property for the owners.
The common fear of an unexplained fire, or even a wrecking team moving in before the council’s planning department wakes up to the threat, were also mentioned at the meeting, with attendees aware of the recent fate of The View, on Selsdon Road, where demolition had been carried out, without any planning permissions, for at least a week before council officials responded to residents’ warnings.
The residents at the Glamorgan meeting urged Fitzsimons to write to the planning office expressing their concerns that their building might suffer a similar fate.
I spoke to Molyneux in the Spread Eagle after the meeting. He was happy to reiterate his interest in taking on the Glamorgan (or, indeed, the Claret & Grouse or the Coach & Horses, the Cherry Orchard pub’s previous names in its century-long history).
“I will be pitching very strongly to be the operator,” he said.
Molyneux is no fool. He turned The Hope in Carshalton into one of the great success stories of the British pub industry – it is, again, CAMRA’s London Pub of the Year – and he sees real opportunity in the Glamorgan site on Cherry Orchard Road.
It occurred to me that, under his stewardship the site could become a real community asset, and a much-needed one in an area where the population was booming but pubs were closing – the nearby Porter and Sorter remains vulnerable under Menta development plans at East Croydon Station – and have a similar sort of draw as The Hope.
On the other hand, if the ACV fails and the land is developed for residential use, Croydon will have another handful of unaffordable flats.
It’s a no brainer, isn’t it?
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