Residents of Forest Hill are divided by the building of a six-storey hotel, which will replace one of the area’s local pubs.
The popular drinking spot will be knocked down to clear the way for a 66 room guesthouse, as well as a new pub bistro, if Lewisham Council grants the application.
Mark Harris, Group CEO of VI, said: “This is the first hotel we have developed – it is a separate business to the new pub we are looking to build and we are in talks with a major operator, but nothing has yet been confirmed.”
An online campaign to prevent the All Inn One’s demolition began on Monday.
Local councillor Liam Curran, Chair of the council’s Sustainable Development Scrutiny Committee, is opposing the plan.
Curran said: “It is unbelievable that anyone would want to destroy a very successful pub and business that has been a feature of Forest Hill for nearly 200 years and remains successful to this day. It is unbelievable cultural & social vandalism.”
He continued: “Since the 1980’s, Lewisham has lost more than half of its pubs. What we have left are key landmark buildings and the reason they get sold is the value of the land they sit on: it’s worth a fortune.”
Some residents, however, do not agree with the issues Curran is raising.
Nicola Johnson, 45, of Forest Hill, said: “The current owners are not being forced out; they elected to sell up and move on several months ago. I’m delighted that the pub isn’t being converted into flats and is going to be replaced by another business, which in my opinion presents great opportunities for Forest Hill and its economy. The increased footfall that a hotel would bring to the area would be hugely beneficial for Forest Hill businesses, particularly those on the Perry Vale side.”
Michael Snasdell, 45, who lives a few streets away from The All Inn One, added: “Residents with the area’s best interests at heart – long term residents of the area – and those with the vision for the growth of the area are slightly more open to the idea.”
There are also concerns that the new pub bistro will be more of a hotel bar than a traditional pub.
Curran said: “The planning application removes a purpose-built public house with all the attendant facilities expected of a pub, like a beer garden.”
Similar issues occurred when The Rutland Arms, in Catford, was closed down in 2012. Curran added: “The Rutland Arms was bought and residents were told it would stay a public house, with accommodation downstairs and upstairs. The application went through and it didn’t happen; the pub disappeared.”
Some residents again have different opinions. Johnson said: “If Councillor Curran were to win this campaign to retain the pub in its current form, then there are no guarantees that new owners could be found to take on the business or run it successfully. What then? Another Forest Hill pub sits empty. Yes, the bricks and mortar are retained, but the opportunities are lost. I think we need to be pragmatic and look at this as a potential solution to the challenges Forest Hill’s economy faces and has faced for a number of years.”
Harris said they are a “family business and have designed this hotel with family in mind” and they are in “talks with the current owners of the All Inn One about taking a lease on the new pub when the site has been redeveloped for it.”
Harris also said: “From what I can see, all those that actually live in the ward are very supportive of the hotel bringing jobs and 200 people per day walking the streets of Forest Hill can only be good for restaurants, coffee shops and small traders. I believe, like when we developed in Crystal Palace – which is now thriving – that many new small indie business will come to the area and the existing ones will thrive. That can only be welcome news.”
He added he would “happily meet” with any local residents who wanted to talk to him.