A landmark ruling last week by a planning inspector saw the Chesham Arms pub in Hackney saved from being turned into flats, but the owner will continue to use the former pub space as “offices”.
The ruling comes two years after owner Mukund Patel turned the ground floor pub into offices and the first floor into a flat – without planning permission.
The group “Save the Chesham Arms” have been campaigning for two years in the hope of restoring their 150-year-old local pub on Metahebal Road to its former glory.
According to the campaigners, the upstairs flats have been empty since former tenants moved out in July.
James Watson, campaign secretary said: “We are pleased that the inspector dismissed the appeal, it takes us one step further to getting the pub re-opened, although we know there is still campaigning to be done.”
However Mr Patel, a developer from Enfield, who bought the property for £650,000 two years ago paid over double the value of the premises with plans to turn the whole building into flats to rent.
Tony Allen, managing director of Allen Planning, the developers working alongside Patel, said: “First and foremost we are disappointed with the appeal decision.”
“However, the inspector’s decision means that the building can remain as offices on the ground floor and a flat above until 23rd March 2016. At this stage this is likely to be what happens. My client will rent out as offices and a flat.”
Allen added: “We will consider planning permission in early 2016.”
Patel’s reluctance to revert the space back to a pub has frustrated the campaigners; “I’m disappointed he’s [Mr Patel] putting off the inevitable. The most profitable, lawful use of the building is to use it as a pub.”
Last year the pub was recognised as the first ACV rated building in Hackney – meaning it is an “asset of community value”. The recognition that it is an important social space for the community offers limited legal protection.
The ACV rating means that Hackney Council have the right to compulsorily purchase a property with the help of financial backers. The campaigners say that this is a route they are looking to explore.
Councilor Guy Nicholson said: “We recognise the historic, cultural and social importance of the Chesham Arms, and will continue to support the local community who have campaigned tirelessly against the illegal development of this site.”
“We have successfully defended the Asset of Community Value listing, a first for a council to do this, and we have had our decision upheld, a clear signal to the developer that his plans must be agreed by the Council.”
James Watson who is also Pub campaigner for the Campaign for Real Ale said: “This campaign will continue until we can enjoy a drink in the pub, and everybody will be invited to a big party.”