Pub-lovers in Addiscombe and East Croydon are rolling up their sleeves for another battle over the future of The Glamorgan on Cherry Orchard Road, against developers who have a track record for allowing old pub buildings to fall derelict if they are denied planning permission.
Campaigners who want to buy the Victorian building and return it to use as a community hub say that the new plans “benefit nobody apart from the greedy developer”.
There is also a strong suggestion that the developer’s planning application has attempted to mislead over the recent trading history of the one-time bustling gastropub
The developers, Butlers Walsall Ltd, have submitted new plans for the site, which would demolish the Victorian building and replace it with an 11-storey block of 36 flats. This in an area already teeming with blocks of flats, but ill-served with public amenities, such as pubs.
The eastern side of the railway lines north from East Croydon Station is packed with modern blocks of flats, mostly through the Menta developments. The nearby Morello II scheme, with a further 456 flats across another three blocks, was recently given the go-ahead.
The new planning application was the hot agenda item at last night’s (virtual) annual meeting of the Save the Glamorgan Campaign.
“The proposed development offers no affordable housing, no car parking, insufficient communal area and a completely unviable ‘pub’,” a campaign spokesperson said today.
The Save the Glamorgan Campaign, backed by the three Labour councillors for Addiscombe West ward, was granted Asset of Community Value status in 2018, and the campaigners have an experienced and award-winning pub operator lined up, keen to take on the building and return it to the thriving enterprise it was before it closed in 2016.
As it is an ACV, the Glamorgan’s owners have a legal obligation to offer the building for sale to the community.
But campaigners say that the building owners have stalled and avoided any meaningful negotiation since 2017, preferring instead to allow the building to be stripped of its lead roofing, letting it rot away – perhaps calculating that the only viable future, if it becomes sufficiently damaged, would be for it to be demolished.
“The developer has never seriously engaged with us regarding selling the pub,” a campaign member told Inside Croydon. “They have not marketed it at all.
“There are several backers who are interested in buying the pub, and 100 per cent believe it could be run as a viable business. These are people who work in the industry, and we have had offers to help financially as recently as last week.
“Unfortunately, though, this is contingent on being able to see the inside the building and value it, and obviously on the owners selling it at a realistic price.”
So far, the owners have denied access to the building to any prospective buyers.
Their latest planning application has raised questions, though, about its veracity.
The council, advised by the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, amended its Local Plan policy to provide greater protection for pubs as community facilities. The new application from the Glamorgan’s owners includes only a small bar area in an effort to “compensate” for the destruction of the old-style pub as a means to get round this planning policy.
According to Sean Fitzsimons, one of the ward councillors, “This application clearly flouts this policy with its reduced size, which will affect viability and community use.”
In their application, Butlers Walsall try to make the case that the old Glamorgan pub was not viable as a business.
“While it may be regrettable for some that the building itself is lost, the building has been vacant since 2016, it was simply not viable,” the developers state in their application.
This is untrue.
The previous owners were well-regarded and their gastropub a popular night out for locals.
In 2016, they decided to sell because they wanted to move to South Africa for family reasons. The best offer they got was from the developers, who eyed a quick and juicy profit. And then the council changed its Local Plan.
“It is very clear that they have no knowledge of, or respect for, the local community and do not have even a basic understanding of pub culture,” said Councillor Fitzsimons.
“Public Houses are a key hub of local communities and this proposal to knock down a much-loved community pub, that served the East Croydon and Addiscombe communities for over a hundred years, will be fiercely resisted by local residents.”
Fitzsimons also pointed out that the same developers own The View on Selsdon Road, which they part-demolished without even seeking planning permission. The council’s planning enforcement team, under the direction of Alison Butler (who she? Ed), never took any action against the owners. The View building, in a prominent position on a busy road, has simply been left to rot, with no consequences for the owners.
Little wonder, then, that the developers have been prepared to try a version of the same cynical ploy at The Glamorgan.
As Fitzsimons said, “The current owner tried in 2017 to demolish the Glamorgan without getting the correct planning permission, but this was refused.
“Since then the pub has been squatted, all the lead on the roof has been removed and now leaks and the ground floor bar area has been vandalised and destroyed.”
Fitzsimons is appealling for help from planners or lawyers with an understanding of affordable housing viability assessments. The developers, Fitzsimons says, have “submitted a viability assessment which only gives a partial explanation of their assumptions and costs and may not meet the recent threshold on transparency set in a recent case in Hackney”.
The planning application is open for public comments on the council’s website, here. Deadline for comments is November 4.
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