Appeal success for Wellington Pub Company in Croydon
Client: Wellington Pub Company
LPA: London Borough of Croydon
The scheme sought to retain (a reduced) public house at basement and ground floor levels and convert the upper floors and out building into 5 residential units. The decision process was not without issue, numerous public objections were lodged as well as a petition which gathered a substantial level of local support. Boyer are delighted to have received planning permission on behalf of Wellington Pub Company.
Boyer submitted the application to the Council in February 2018 and it was recommended for approval at planning committee in June 2018. Despite a very supportive officer’s report and strong presentation from the Head of Planning and the Case Officer, members voted to defer the application in favour of attending a site visit prior to issuing their decision. Following the site visit the application was re-presented to the Committee in July and was refused by members on the basis that the proposal would result in the loss of A4 floorspace to a pub that ‘displays the characteristics of a community pub’ and would be ‘contrary to Policy DM21 of the Croydon Local Plan 2018’. Policy DM21 relates to the protection of public houses with the wording stating that the policy should be applied when ‘demolition or change of use of a public house that displays the characteristics of a community pub’ is proposed.
In the lead up to the committee, Boyer, on behalf of the applicant, had submitted extensive information to confirm the future viability of the public house, taking into account the reduced floorspace and the ability of the proposed provision to present a ‘community facility’ and thus be able to continue the provision of activities such as pool, darts, quiz nights and karaoke. Despite the significant information to support the application and the robust response to all objections, as well as Officers explicitly stating that the aforementioned policy should not be engaged in this instance as the proposal would retain a viable public house capable of being a community facility, members of the planning committee still voted to refuse the proposal.
An appeal was lodged against LB Croydon and Boyer was able to construct a strong appeal case setting out the short fallings of the decision notice by highlighting that Croydon’s Local Plan is fully up to date having been adopted in the last 18 months and that the Council’s decision was a clear misinterpretation of policy. As a result the appeal was allowed and the Inspector confirmed that there would be ‘no substantive reason to conclude that the scheme would not be viable’ and the ‘public house would continue to demonstrate those attributes of a community pub’. The Inspector concluded that the proposed development ‘would not be contrary to Policy DM21 of the Local Plan’.
Further to our appeal success, Boyer has identified comparable decisions (PP/L5240/W/18/3213916) whereby Croydon Council has been overruled by the Planning Inspectorate for having a ‘rigid adherence to policy’ which ‘took no account of the cogent reasons advanced by the appellant for making an exception in this case’. Whilst this application referred to alternative uses compared to The Welcome Inn (change of use from D1 to B1) it is interesting to acknowledge the importance in both instances, that the Inspector has placed on the need of the Council to be ‘pragmatic’ and use ‘common sense’ when applying polices for changes of use. Whilst this doesn’t demonstrate flexibility in all instances, it provides weight to the substantial and supportive evidence which can assist an appellant in demonstrating the acceptability of a change of use which may be challenged by reference to specific policies in the Local Plan.