An historic building in the Deptford High Street Conservation Area has been torn down, despite having no planning permission for demolition, according to Lewisham Council.
The top two floors and the facade of the Noah’s Ark, a former public house, have been almost entirely destroyed and is currently covered with scaffolding and netting.
Lewisham Council officials are now investigating the demolition, which Historic England, the public body tasked with preserving architecturally significant buildings, say could be illegal: “Demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area without planning permission is a criminal offence.”
The developer Visionbell acknowledged to Eastlondonlines that they had demolished the two stories without permission for “health and safety” reasons but stressed that they intend to “reinstate the building as it was before” with the addition of the pre-approved extension, “ensuring its long term future.”
The Deptford Society, the amenity society for the conservation area, told Eastlondonlines: “We are dismayed that one of the High Street’s most significant buildings has been lost in this way.” The Society have urged the Council to take “the strongest possible enforcement action against those responsible” for the building’s demolition.
Lewisham Council visited the site following a complaint from a resident. The council said: “Officers visiting the site saw that the building had been substantially demolished with only the ground floor frontage now remaining… Planning permission had not been granted for the demolition of the building. It is a criminal offence to demolish a building in a conservation area.”
The council say Deptford High Street is designated as a protected area in recognition of the exceptional quality of the many buildings of historic and architectural interest.
Permission had been previously granted to convert the property into apartments. Earlier this year, an application was also approved for: “The installation of new and replacement windows and doors… the re-rendering of external walls, and the construction of a mansard roof to provide a self-contained two bed flat.”
As work on the planned renovation began, Visionbell told Eastlondonlines they were “advised by specialist structural engineers to urgently reduce the height of and re-build part of the external walls in the interest of public safety. As part of this emergency work, full hoarding went up to ensure the safety of the public.”
They added: “There was no financial gain and ultimately we have lost a significant sum of money and time due to this. We will be liaising with the local authority about this.”
The planning application states the proposed alterations would have a “positive impact on the character and appearance of the building.” The plans also state the “alterations would not have any perceptible impact on the amenity of neighbouring occupiers.”
Adjoining the former pub at number 227 is a former bakehouse, dating back to the 1700s; the only listed property on the street.
The website of Gunn Associates, the architectural practice responsible for the original eleven-flat plan, who refused to comment for this article, states: “We worked closely with our planning consultant to gain permitted development consent to change the use of the building from office to residential. Planning permission was then secured for a further storey of accommodation. The site is the corner building of a conservation area and is of particular importance.”
When asked about the course of future action, Lewisham Council told Eastlondonlines: “Investigations are ongoing.”