Brixton is now losing an iconic Victorian community pub to a bland, nine-story residential block with zero social housing after councillors for Lambeth’s ‘co-operative’ Council voted for its destruction last night.
I was given a timed 2 mins to argue the case. So I did some internet research and quoted Lambeth Council’s own policies about safeguarding historic buildings in the area / pubs / the cultural environment of Brixton etc. etc. blah. blah., but there were other things in place which rendered those arguments pointless in the eyes of the law (the CA could, apparently, be legally converted into a Tesco’s anyway regardless of the outcome tonight or be legally demolished, regardless of how likely these arguments are).
Thus the planning department told the councillors they had to vote against, even though all six expressed various regrets, as if they didn’t, they could face an expensive appeal, plus they didn’t really have a legal leg to stand on.
Thus four councilors voted for the demolition, all said it was regrettable. One voted against and one abstained. The “best” thing to come out of the meeting was that three councilors argued what the policies regarding pub / building protection are actually for if they don’t work in practice, and it was agreed that they would look into this – but then, what’s the point? That seems a little too late for me.
They also said that they would “try” to keep the fixtures and fittings from the Canterbury Arms and offer them for use elsewhere (the ridiculousness of this counter-argument got some laughs, at least).
Regarding the lack of proper affordable housing, they again said that this had been considered and was OK in the eyes of the law.
The council’s decision to destroy this building comes at a time when Mayor Boris Johnson has recently recognised the “important role” played by London’s pubs, with his new guidelines encouraging authorities to ‘maintain, manage and enhance’ pubs and to protect venues that “play a part in the social fabric of communities”. [--]
We think the loss of this pub is going to prove a terrible blow to Brixton, both for the local community and for generations to come, and that Lambeth’s decision will prove to be a woefully short-sighted one.
Here’s the full text of the appeal submitted by Tufty at the council meeting:
Thank you. Good evening.
Loss of the Canterbury Arms would be detrimental to the local economy and cultural environment of Brixtons, impacting people’s view of Brixton as a vibrant and varied place to visit.
The public house is close to Brixton Academy and is used by its patrons. Furthermore, it hosts successful club nights, attracting people from all over London, and indeed the country, into Brixon. This enhances Brixton’s reputation and puts pounds into the local economy.
The proposed establishment could not fulfil this function due to the flats above.
This would also be against Section 5 in Lambeth Local Development Core Strategy, dated January 2011. To quote section A of Policy PN3:
Brixton’s role as a distinctive major multicultural and diverse town centre will be safeguarded and promoted through careful and sensitive regeneration, recognising its local heritage and historic built environment. This will be achieved by:
A.) The use council owned sites and other development sites to support a wide range and mix of compatible and town centre uses. This includes enhancing the town centre’s popularity for leisure, entertainment and nightlife, including support for provision of theatre and other entertainment venues.”
This same document, of course, also requires Lambeth to recognise Brixton’s “local heritage and historic built environment.”
Furthermore, paragraph 126 of the National Policy Framework, dated March 2012, suggests a proactive approach to preservation is required, stating there should be: “a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk through neglect, decay or other threats. [Local authorities] should recognise that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance.” This suggests that an inherently proactive approach to preservation is required.
The Canterbury Arms is very significant: Camra, The Campaign for Real Ale, has compiled an Inventory of Pub Interiors of Special Historic Interest. As the name would suggest, this is a list of pub interiors which still have significant historic or architectural value. It is worth noting that the Canterbury Arms is only one of two pubs in the whole of Brixton listed on the register. The other entry, Duke of Edinburgh, is listed for its 1930s interior. Therefore, the Victorian interior of the Canterbury Arms is both unique and special and is of significant historical importance to Brixton and the local planning authority ought not, in accordance with national guidelines, collude in the pub’s destruction.
Finally, I would like to draw the Committee’s attention to its own Unitary Development plan, which states: “Proposals which would involve the loss of public houses (in whole, or in part and in particular the ground floor public house use in traditional purpose-built buildings) will only be permitted if it is demonstrated that there is no reasonable prospect in the medium term of re-use.”
The Canterbury Arms, however, is not a closed public house, it is thriving. This development has had strong opposition with a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.
I therefore ask that the Committee’s considers refusal of planning permission.