Saving Pubs Toolkit - Part 5
Planning Objections in Practice
The last part described planning objections in general terms. We discussed when to object, how to object, explained how Councils decide applications and outlined the contents of an objection. We also went through the grounds on which to object, i.e. what to actually say in your letter or email that would be material, and therefore would be taken on board by the Council planners, and might actually make a difference in their decision process. In this penultimate part of the toolkit, we present three samples, in the form of actual objections submitted in defence of London pubs. There is no right or wrong way to formulate an objection. It is largely a numbers game. Your campaign should be concerned with securing a large volume of objections. That demonstrates the strength of public feeling regarding a proposal and will assist in getting your case to be heard by the planning sub-committee, which will present you with the opportunity to speak in front of elected Councillors and convince them to vote the right way.
These letters can be saved for reference but bear in mind that planning policy is continually evolving. Some references to national and local plans will become outdated and superseded. You will need to check the policy details of the relevant local authority local plan but you can use the structure of these letters as a guide.
For all letters you must give your own name and full address. You cannot use pseudonyms such as ‘a concerned resident’ or ‘angry CAMRA member’. You should address the letter to the planning department case officer by name.
Sample 1 used for the Star, St John’s Wood
Planning Application – 13/11379/FULL – The Star Public House
I write to OBJECT to the above proposal to change the use of The Star pub at 38 St John’s Wood Terrace into a dwelling house. I work at the National Grid Electricity Substation on Lodge Road and this is a pub that my colleagues and I have used for various after-work activities. I object to this change of use on the following grounds:
1. There is chronic under-provision of pubs in the St John’s Wood area due to the competition from alternative land uses. This competition has been brought about by the very high land prices. It is the role of the planning system to protect communities from the negative impacts of the free market. The Star is one of only nine pubs that still exist in St John’s Wood. Figures published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) show that this area has lost 60% of its pubs in the last ten years!
2. Pubs perform a vital social community function that is unparalleled by any other similar facility. As well as providing a social amenity for the local residents, businesses such as ours use pubs to celebrate retirement, staff departures, Christmas, the end of a substantial project, or sometimes just the end of another week! The Westminster economy will suffer if such facilities are not dispersed throughout the borough, close to the places where people live, work and relax.
3. The National Planning Policy Framework protects against the loss of pubs at Paragraph 70. Paragraph 70 has been used by inspectors to defend a pub use and to maintain established pub facilities e.g. gardens and landlord’s accommodation. The conversion of this building into a private residential house would result in the loss of the pub as a community facility. This is therefore contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework.
4. The pub performs an important role providing a valuable cultural and social amenitiy space for the local community and visitors into the borough. This role cannot be peformed by a private dwelling house. As such, the proposal would be contrary to policies 3.1 (Ensuring Equal Life Chances for All), 3.16 (Protection and Enhancement of Social Infrastructure), 4.8 (Supporting a successful and diverse retail sector) and 7.1 (Building London's neighbourhoods and communities) of the London Plan 2011.
5. Policy S34 of the Westminster Council Adopted City Plan (p116) decrees that all social and community floor space will be protected unless alternative provision is being made. The Council needs to be satisfied that the overall level of social and community provision is improved and there is no demand for an alternative social and community use for that floor space. Allowing this well-established A4 public house to convert to a single C3 dwelling house would constitute a direct breach of Council policy S34. There is no justification offered within this proposal to suggest that the loss of the pub would be in any way acceptable.
6. A pub has existed on that site since 1848. It provides a powerful visual and historical anchor on the corner plot between St John’s Wood Terrace and Charlbert Street. It is a pleasant contrast to the post-war tower blocks which flank it and the outdoor space in the courtyard creates a neat juxtaposition. There is no better sight to a passing traveler than people outside a pub enjoying themselves and interacting with fellow Londoners. The use of the premises as a residential dwelling house would negatively impact the tone of the streetscape.
7. The Star forms part of the St John’s Wood Conservation Area as confirmed in the Council maps and audit document. The audit paper described The Star Tavern at Section 2.03 (p87) as having “intrinsic architectural merit”. Figure 113 of the audit paper (p62) demonstrates that the balance of the conservation area is heavily skewed towards residential with precious little retail, food and drink provision.
8. You will be aware that the Planning Inspectorate has determined at appeal that the use of a public house within a conservation area forms part of the essential character; refer to (Cross Keys Chelsea, APP/K5600/A/12/2172342 July 2012). Granting a change of use for this public house premises would therefore be wholly inappropriate and would undermine the laudable aims of the Council in maintaining and nurturing its various conservation areas.
9. In summary, The Star is a heritage asset within a conservation area which provides a vital community function. It is of a category of facility in short supply in that particular area. A residential use would surely be of higher financial value to the freeholder but the planning system is there to safeguard neighbourhoods from the negative impacts of the market. Sustainable communities need places to interact and socialise.
PLEASE refuse consent.
Sample 2 – used for the Prince Edward, Hackney
Planning Application - 2014/0402 – The Prince Edward Public House
I strongly OBJECT to the proposal to demolish the pub on the following grounds:
1. The Prince Edward is an historic community corner pub from 1866. It has survived all the damage cause by bombing and overlapped the changes due to redevelopment in the area, continuing to provide a community anchor.
2. The pub provides a livelihood for the landlord and his family. The ancillary flat above the pub provides a family home. These would both be lost if demolition were allowed.
3. The pub provides employment to local people, in the crucial category of 18-24 year old and unskilled flexible work. These are the job classes where the economy is experiencing high unemployment. Two full time and four part time jobs would be lost in Hackney if the pub were closed. All of these people would become unemployed.
4. The Prince Edward is primarily used by local people as opposed to visitors and tourists. It is therefore a community pub and it differs from nearby high street venues like The Cock Tavern and the Plough and it offers a different social experience to the more contemporary “gastro” pubs such as The Kenton or The Windsor Castle. The pub has its own identity. The regular customers relate to that and feel at home and welcome in the Prince Edward.
5. Such community pubs are protected by National, Regional and Local planning policy. I refer you to the NPPF paragraphs 69 and 70, the London Plan 2011 sections 3.16, 4,48 and 7.1 and most importantly Hackney Council’s own DMLP, policy DM5.
6. You will be aware that DM5 states that the Council will protect existing social and community facilities including public houses by resisting their loss unless the community no longer requires the facility or equivalent facilities are provided. For the Council to entertain the proposal for loss of an existing community facility, evidence is required that all reasonable efforts have been made to preserve the facility, e.g. marketing evidence for 12 months. The pub has not been marketed. Indeed, the licensee was not even aware of this proposal until notified in writing by Hackney Council as a consultee!
7. For five years, the pub has been tenanted with a licensee and live-in publican paying rent to the freeholder. This rent consists of a “dry rent” on the demise of the building including fixtures and fittings, plus a “wet rent” whereby beer and soft drinks must be purchased through the freeholder. Such a business arrangement is known as a tie and is the subject of a government review with proposals to end the unfair business practice. In spite of these restrictions, the rent has always been paid on time and past and present trading conditions mean the continued use of the pub, in its present form is an entirely viable proposition.
8. The freeholder does not, and has not ever, operated the pub business on this site. The accounts relating to trading performance of the pub belong to the publican whose details will be found on the Council’s licensing register. Any information or evidence provided by the freeholder relating to trading, viability, business conditions should be attributed no weight. The freeholder has collected a market rate regularly and without default.
9. There is an under-provision of pubs in the E9 area. The E9 area has lost 53% of its pubs in the last 30 years according to statistics provided by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). By way of example, the following pubs have been lost to the neighbourhood in the recent past:
- The Alma on Barnabas Road – converted to flats in 2007
- The Bedford Hotel on Victoria Park Road – converted to flats in 1999
- The Brunswick Arms on Well Street – converted to a Mosque in 2010
- The Chesham Arms on Mehetabel Road – converted to offices in 2013
- The Duke of Devonshire on Darnley Road – converted to flats in 2001
- The Duke of Wellington on Morning Lane – converted to a shop in 2012
- The Frampton Arms on Well Street – demolished in 2002
- The Hospital Tavern on Homerton Row – planned demolition in 2014
10. The above are just a handful of examples of community neighbourhood pubs in the E9 area of Hackney which have been lost to demolition or alternative us. There are many more. Although other pubs do remain in the vicinity, e.g. the Eagle and the Tiger, these are a different experience to The Prince Edward. The Prince Edward has its own loyal following with its own tastes. The pub provides a pool table, a dart board, live music (DJ) on a Friday and Saturday night. Regular parties are held which cater for a particular demographic. The offer is in contrast to the more “gentrified” pubs that are experiencing success elsewhere in Hackney. It is important that all social sectors of society are catered for and the Prince Edward is an important part of the spectrum of pub provision. It should be retained.
11. It is proposed to replace the pub with a five story block. Plans are not available on the Council website at this time. A five story block would be an inappropriate development in the surrounding streetscape. The present building is an imposing corner pub built in the traditional mid-Victorian style. Although not listed and not in a conservation area, the building is steeped in history and has character. Internally there is some original Victorian panelling and some splendid Truman’s mirrors from the late Victorian era. The enjoyment of these historical features would be denied if the demolition were allowed.
12. The proposal also includes an A3 café/restaurant unit on the ground floor of the new building. Such a unit would not fulfil the same community social facility as the existing pub. The building has always served Hackney citizens as pub. This is a specific social facility that welcomes all members of the community. It is a social leveller. There is no evidence to suggest there is any demand for a café on this site or any suggestion that a tenant is secured. In all probability, the suggestion of an A3 unit is being used as a negotiating lever to secure consent for the flats and the eventual occupier could well be a convenience store or betting shop via the permitted development route.
13. In summary, there is no economic reason for the closure of this pub, save the fact that the freeholder stands to make a substantial short-term gain from the sale of nine flats on the site. The proposed café or restaurant seems highly improbable and would not provide the equivalence in social interaction facilities to the community. Furthermore community pubs are protected by local policy DM5 which aims to resist their loss unless equivalent/alternative facilities exist and marketing evidence has been provided to demonstrate there is no demand to continue the existing pub business on the premises. This has not been proven or even offered.
PLEASE refuse consent.
Sample 3 – used for the Admiral Mann, Lower Holloway
Planning Application – 2015/4456/P – The Admiral Mann Public House
I write to OBJECT to this latest proposal to convert the Admiral Mann. 1. Although the above proposal is an improvement on previous applications, and particularly on the application for a certificate of lawfulness for an A1 use of the premises, I remain opposed to the splitting of the planning unit, which principally houses an ACV-registered pub, and the change of use of this locally-listed building, which is a non designated heritage asset.
2. Without wishing to unnecessarily repeat my points made in previous correspondence, with which the Council will be very familiar, pubs are protected under Paragraph 70 of the NPPF and at Sections 3.1B, 3.16, 4.48A, 4.8 and 7.1 of the London Plan. There is a requirement for Councils to plan positively for the provision and sustainability of pubs as well as resisting their loss.
3. The registration of The Admiral Mann as an Asset of Community Value, and the well-orchestrated campaign by the Friends of the Admiral Mann, supported by CAMRA and others, is evidence enough of the value of this pub and the pain and loss suffered by the community as a result of its continued (and needless) closure.
4. Any reputable pub surveyor or licensing broker will confirm that pubs are more attractive, sustainable, and viable propositions if their ancillary accommodation and support functions remain intact. A pub with kitchen, sizeable cellar, ancillary accommodation for the publican, as part of an integrated whole i.e. SINGLE planning unit is more likely to survive as a pub in London’s constantly changing property landscape.
5. The Council should draw lessons from the cases of The Dartmouth Arms, The Albert (Primrose Hill) and The Sir Richard Steele. In the former two cases, the Council granted consent for the splitting of the planning unit and the creation of separate, independent C3 flats above the pub. These cases are always problematic due to concerns over noise, the removal of the freehold from the common ownership and control of the pub operator, the creation of residential units very close to what is inherently a noisy environment by purpose and function and the complexities of parts of the demise being subject to additional restrictions and controls due to the Localism Act. It can be a legal and planning minefield!
- The Dartmouth Arms is registered as ACV but the Council already granted consent for upper floor conversion with the retention of the ground floor A4 pub. The owner claimed to be refurbishing the ground floor of the pub at the same time as the conversion works for the flats. The work was due to complete in April but the pub remains closed. The owner has since challenged the ACV status.
- The Albert received consent for C3 flats above, again with retention of the pub below and the proposal to build two houses in the beer garden was rejected. As soon as consent was obtained for the flats, the pub operator placed the Albert on the market with a residential property company for over £2M.
- The Sir Richard Steele applied for a similar split yet the Council rejected this in order to retain the function room. We supported this decision and we are delighted that the Council’s decision was upheld on appeal.
From discussions with officers and members, I am aware that the Council now regrets the former two decisions but feels rightly vindicated over the latter. The lesson here is clear; do not countenance the splitting of a planning unit on freestanding freehold pubs. Experience has shown that such a move rarely ensures the sustainability of the pub and on the contrary, in Camden’s overheating speculative property market, it can often result in quite the opposite happening in practice.
6. I would urge the Council to insist that The Admiral Mann is required to remain intact, as one individual planning unit, with accommodation above and the community pub in its present form below.
7. As per previous applications, on the face of it, this application would appear to be of no harm or detriment, in that the proposal seeks to retain the existing A4 use in the historic pub. However, I have a number of concerns:
- The splitting of the planning unit and the intensification of residential use immediately adjacent to an operational public house is fraught with difficulties such as noise complaints, licensing restrictions, interference with the proper operation of the A4 community use;
- Planning inspectors have previously described such proposals as a “Trojan Horse” where developers seek to weaken and ultimately extinguish the pub business on the site, with a view to an eventual 100% residential use as this maximises their profit. The planning system exists precisely to protect communities against these negative impacts of the free market;
- Contrary to the floor-space figures provided in the application form, the proposal will result in a reduction in A4 community social space, estimated by a team of very familiar regulars as a 40% loss. Some of our members have used the pub for around 40 years and know the building intimately. They have scrutinised the plans against the existing layout and are entirely convinced that the trading space will be diminished thus;
- The reduced floor area would make wheelchair access difficult, would reduce the available seating by over one third, would hinder the function of dart teams, prohibit the provision of buffet food, remove any possibility of entertainment space, remove the two-room traditional layout. In summary the proposal seeks to turn a purpose-built traditional community pub into a basic lock-up bar, completely destroying its identity and charm, the very characteristics that led to its nomination as an ACV in the first place.
- The only improvement on this relative to previously rejected schemes is the provision of a nominal ancillary flat. We would argue this is substandard and inadequate and there is no planning justification for interfering with the existing perfectly acceptable arrangements, which have worked well for over 150 years.
8. Camden Council’s adopted Development Policy DP15 requires the Council to protect existing community facilities by resisting their loss. Supporting statement 15.7 specifically outlines the Council’s ambition to protect community pubs and to resist their loss. The developer will argue that this scheme will not result in the loss of The Admiral Mann, but our experience, and that of Camden’s own planners, suggests otherwise.
9. When McMullens sold the pub, as a going concern to the present owner, the new freeholder immediately shut the business down, much to the horror of local residents and pub regulars. One needs to question the motives of such a move, which makes no economic sense. The owner has employed the services of property guardians to provide security on the premises for over six months, at considerable expense and with no income. If the developer was serious about retaining the pub, and building flats around it, would it not have made more sense to retain the publican, employing staff, paying business rates, contributing to Camden’s economy and providing a vital community service? From their own perspective they could have enjoyed a market rent whilst the planning matter under consideration was decided, providing a return on their freehold investment regardless of the outcome of the planning decision. Instead they chose to shut the pub, alienating the community and creating economic harm to the borough with the loss of 3 full-time and 5 part-time jobs, the knock-on effect in the local supply chain with the loss of food and drink orders and the erasure of economic activity surrounding the pub, estimated by the IPPR to be in the region of £80,000 annually. Sadly, this is a pattern of behaviour I have come to recognise. The owner is interested in the return from residential conversion and cares little for the pub.
10. The present owner has a track record of converting pubs to residential use. His LinkedIn profile makes much of this in describing his experience as “Pub conversions in North London”. Based on a previous attempt to convert the premises to retail, first by undertaking physical although not material development, and latterly trying, unsuccessfully, to regularise it with a certificate of lawfulness, we would question his reliability as an applicant. The Council could well grant consent for this, believing that the proposal would save the Admiral Mann, only to discover that once the flats are converted and the profit realised, the ground floor is once more converted to an alternative and unsatisfactory use.
11. McMullens brewery sold the pub for £1.7M which is many times its market value. The applicant paid a speculative price on the assumption that he would later obtain consent for residential use and the purchase would be a viable prospect. This kind of behaviour is happening all over Britain and is destroying our heritage and culture. It is the role of the planning system to safeguard public amenity and to protect communities from the negative impact of the free market. I submit that the Council should REFUSE consent on this scheme and insist that the whole building remains in A4 use, as per strategic policy to resist the loss of pubs. The applicant has provided no evidence that the pub has been marketed at a fair price for a period of two years. Were this to happen, I am beyond confident that there would be a great deal of interest from pub operators. That interest would be substantially diminished if the Council allows the splitting of the planning unit.
Accordingly, we invite the Council to PLEASE refuse consent.