Owners submit last minute changes to flats scheme
Planners have deferred a decision on a scheme to alter the historic Brewery Tap pub in Wimbledon Village, involving the creation of two flats.
Owners Enterprise Inns put the original plans forward to Merton council in December, involving a rear extension and conversion of the existing accommodation on the first and second floor.
They submitted amended plans in February, involving building toilets in the basement. But another change, submitted this week, was only seen by councillors hours before the meeting on Thursday (March 17). The decision could now be made at the borough council's next planning meeting on April 14, when the plans are on the agenda.
Regulars at the Brewery Tap (left), run by resident managers John and Heather Grover for 15 years, have been running a campaign to keep the pub as it is and have collected a petition with around 900 signatures.
The local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has also been campaigning against the plans, as they remove the existing manager's accommodation. CAMRA campaigners fear for the long-term future of a pub without a resident landlord.
Geoff Strawbridge, pubs officer for CAMRA's South-West London branch, told the meeting: "This is an established public house, par excellence. It is a bastion of responsible drinking. What is being proposed will turn it into something other than a public house and the spectre of Wimbledon Village being a late night disaster zone fills me with horror."
Garry Mallen, representing his father, the pub's tenant, said: "The proposals keep on changing and it does not give us time to address them properly. This last minute alteration is distressing and confusing. Perhaps it should be considered at a later meeting rather than rushed through".
The council's planning committee had a unanimous vote to defer the plans after the latest amendments, which involved the refuse access. Councillor Ian Munn said: "I cannot make a decision having received drawings of poor quality on the night of the meeting. I am not prepared to be ambushed."
Councillor Miles Windsor said: "I haven't seen these latest amendments and think it inappropriate they are brought at this stage. This is one of the few pubs left in Wimbledon Village that has character. It is a community pub and we should be seeking to preserve community pubs. It is one step to the abolution of Wimbledon Village."
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, council leader, is not on the planning committee, but addressed the meeting. He said: "We want a designated supervisor to live above this pub. If this goes through, there will a wine bar which will not open during the day. It will open at 8 or 9 at night."
Council officers had recommended the scheme be approved, subject to conditions. They warned the councillors that the assumption that the pub would be turned into a wine bar was not a reason for refusal, nor should they review the internal layout in detail.
Any objections to the proposals must be sent to the council's planning department by Tuesday April 12. For more information, see this link.
Mr Strawbridge said after the meeting: "I was disappointed by the report from the Planning Officers, and particularly that they had made up their minds to recommend approval of the application before the 13 March deadline for comment on the revised plans.
"They seemed to be arguing that because Enterprise Inns can do what they like anyway to the ground floor premises by way of conversion from public house to bar, restaurant, office or shop use, then the Council should not stand in the way of the application to convert the pub's upstairs kitchen and living accommodation to self-contained flats, for which Enterprise do require planning permission.
"Councillor Alambritis emphasised that Merton UDP Policy L16 requires that the council will not permit the redevelopment or change of use of established public houses to other uses and that the proposed conversion of the pub’s upstairs facilities to self contained flats constitutes a 'redevelopment' that falls foul of this policy, given that Enterprise have not, as I understand it, claimed that this particular established public house is no longer otherwise viable.
"From a local community perspective, the only argument advanced by Planning Officers in favour of the flats was that these would represent a net gain of just one bedroom but, as Garry Mallen pointed out, they had not done their sums correctly and the conversion proposals would reduce the existing four bedrooms to three – a net planning loss.
"The Planning Officers may be right to observe that the ever-changing proposed alterations to the ground floor and basement should not be taken into account as these do not in themselves require planning permission, but the prospect that these alterations could be refused consent under Building Control regulations, as was acknowledged, suggests that Enterprise may intend instead to dispose of the pub altogether if only they can first be granted permission for the flats."
The pub, a locally listed building also owned by Enterprise Inns, will be converted into a house. But the fabric of the pub will be preserved in the fabric of the new development.
The meeting was told there were 13 objections to the plans relating to increased car parking pressure, the loss of a local community pub, the height of the development, the loss of trees and noise during construction.
A submitted marketing statement detailed a decline in sales and profits during the last three years that the pub was trading. It showed a fall in sales from £174,000 in 2006 to £78,000 in 2009 and net losses for each year from 2007 to 2009.
Why not comment on the forum thread on the Brewery Tap?
March 17, 2011