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Re-built pub serves as stark warning to ignore planning process at your peril
23 Apr 2021

As pubs the length and breadth of the country re-open and welcome guests once more, a pub in North London has not only re-opened, but has been completely rebuilt, brick by brick, to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.  

But this isn’t just a tale of optimism for a new future; it serves as a stark warning to anyone who ignores the planning system as it was illegally demolished by its owners six years ago.  Here, Suzanne Tucker from FBC Manby Bowdler’s Town and Country Planning team explains the implications of this case.

It’s not unusual to see buildings either demolished or converted with a radical change of purpose as the intended outcome.  Indeed, there has been a myriad of changes to Permitted Development in recent times that some would argue has accelerated the conversion of commercial buildings for residential use.  Coupled with that, the struggles that many pub landlords face is well-documented and many close each and every week across the country.

It may come as no surprise, therefore, that the owners of the Carlton Tavern in north west London sought permission in 2014 to replace the pub with 10 flats.  However, the Council refused their application and the pub subsequently closed.  Historic England was due to recommend the pub for Grade II listed status, but just a few days before they could, the owners simply went ahead and demolished it!

This proved to be a turning point in the saga which would eventually see the pub welcome back drinkers as so many have done in recent weeks!  It’s also a very dramatic reminder that whilst applicants may not always like the decisions made by local planning authorities, they’d do well to accept them.
In this instance, the demolition of the pub was not only a dramatic reaction, but it was also unauthorised because, even though the pub was not listed, the owners were still required to seek approval from the Council prior to demolishing it.

Following demolition, the Council served an enforcement notice requiring the owners to rebuild the pub exactly as it stood prior to demolition. The owners appealed to the Secretary of State against this notice and sought retrospective planning permission for the demolition. 

An Inspector was appointed as part of this appeal and determined that whilst the pub was not listed, it did resemble pubs of the pre-First World War period and agreed with Historic England that it was a well-preserved and rare example of a pub built by a nationally significant brewery.  The Inspector added that whilst a reconstructed building would lose the historic interest associated with an original building, reconstruction would provide a substantial amount of evidence about the pub. 

What started as a rejected planning application, soon escalated in to a lengthy and costly appeal process and the eventual reconstruction of the pub in 'facsimile' to the original.  But whilst this has grabbed the headlines, it is far from being a unique example of the extensive enforcement powers available to local authorities where works have taken place without the relevant consent.

Buildings being demolished without consent; being built without permission; or not being built in accordance with approved plans, can all fall foul of local planning authorities who can demand that those properties are either rebuilt, demolished or amended. 

It is imperative to engage with planning professionals from the outset where enforcement action has been taken by the Council, or there is the potential for that to happen. 

Meet Suzanne Tucker