A Government decision to protect listed pubs has added another chapter to the on-going saga between the recent owner of the Chesham Arms and its previous regulars.
Mukund Patel, who purchased the Chesham Arms in October 2012, has made two appeals to transform the Hackney pub into flats. The amendment to the Infrastructure Bill means that once a pub is listed as an Asset of Community Value its Permitted Development rights are removed.
James Watson, a regular of the pub and a spokesperson for the Save the Chesham campaign, spoke to East London Lines about the government’s decision: “There’s still a few details to work out, it’s not what we hoped for but it’s better than nothing”.
Watson has concerns that once the five year listing runs out, the building may become subject to Permitted Development.
He said: “At the moment you can close your pub and open it tomorrow as a supermarket, it’s a major threat to pubs”.
According to the campaigners, the Chesham Arms is the only listed pub out of the 129 pubs in Hackney.
Tim Page, the Chief Executive of Campaign for Real Ale, spoke on the issue of the amendment saying: “CAMRA encourages community groups to act now to nominate their valued local pubs as Assets of Community Value to afford them this additional protection”.
CAMRA reported that 28 pubs are closed every week in the UK. There are currently around 48,000 pubs in the country, 600 of which are listed as Assets of Community Value.
Watson believes there is a loophole that allows Patel to use the pub as an office, since an inspector ruled it unlawful to use the premises as a flat. Locals say they haven’t seen Patel using the building as an office and attempts by campaigners to make contact with him have been unsuccessful.
When asked why he and other campaigners have kept up the fight to get their pub back, Watson said: “There are so many pubs in Hackney and you might say so why bother trying to get it back? The reason is because we can’t let developers ruin our communities, you need to protect what matters”.