Community accuses council of "dithering" over much loved pub in Willesden Green now earmarked for a wrecking ball
PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 November 2019
Campaigners in Willesden Green have accused the council of "dithering" after losing a seven-year-battle to save their much-loved pub
Developers, Redbourne Ltd, won its appeal to demolish The Queensbury pub in Walm Lane and build 48 flats in a six-storey block, with a bar and function room on the ground floor.
The decision by the government inspector on Monday is a hammer blow to the community who battled three planning applications and two public inquiries since the Edwardian building was bought by developers Fairview Homes in 2012.
Community leaders and councillors defended the pub, on the edge of Mapesbury Conservation Area, in a five day public inquiry in August.
Ian Elliott, a spokesperson for Save The Queensbury, said: "It is disappointing that the inspector fell on the side of the developer and feels the existing building is not worthy of saving. It has been in constant use by the community since 1895 in one form or another and this decision drives a coach and horses through conservation."
He also "reserved criticism" for Brent Council who he accused as "dithering" after the authority was named in the report as giving "far less detailed" evidence compared to Redbourne.
In his report inspector Philip Ware said the council's architect had "apparently very limited experience of comparable developments", who was "doubtless hindered" by being instructed only a week before evidence was submitted.
A spokesperson for the council strongly denied the accusation and added that evidence was submitted on July 31, two weeks after the architect was hired and a month before the inquiry.
The former Conservative Club building was sold to Fairview New Homes in 2012 and plans soon emerged to demolish the pub.
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Brent Council decided in March 2014 not to bulldoze the building and identified it as an asset of community value.
In 2015 Fairview took its appeal to a public inquiry where the government's planning inspectorate ruled the pub would not be demolished.
Gerry Weston, secretary or the Mapesbury Residents Association, said: "A lot of people here are shocked and disappointed. The majority of people opposed these plans.
"The writer of the report doesn't think the impact on the residential area is terribly great which is what we put our evidence on. We're very disappointed and guess we have to live with it."
Sharmine Chowdury-Tse, founder of Busy Rascals said she had "mixed feelings". The inspector's condition means that the parent and toddler group, which uses the pub for free three hours a day, can use the new function room under the same terms.
The owner must also pay for alternative accommodation while construction is carried out. Ms Chowdury-Tse thanked Save the Queensbury for their "tireless work" and for allowing them use of the space for seven years. "It's been an incredible journey and fight over the years but we feel it was inevitable that this day would come," she said. "
"This historic building has been a second home to us and many families over the years and we are saddened that will soon be no more.
"However, we feel positive due to the achievement of having a pub and community space incorporated into the plans. This is a big achievement as the pub and community space were not in the original plans back in 2012."
A Brent Council spokesperson: "The council refused permission for this scheme last year, and defended this position at the inquiry. However the inspector's view is that the proposed development does not impact on the conservation area and that community use of the building is protected.
"Our view is that the design of the proposed scheme is poor and we mounted a strong defence of our position, so naturally we are very disappointed with this decision."