Loss of public house inadequately proven given local support

The redevelopment of a public house within a local shopping centre in south east London to enable Lidl UK to provide an 800m2 net food store has been denied because it would potentially lead to the loss of an important community facility.

Substantial evidence was submitted relating to the trading performance of the public house in the years leading up to its closure and whether it would be profitable to re-open the facility. An inspector decided that it would be difficult to draw any firm conclusions since the property had not been marketed. Such an exercise would enable all considerations including acquisition costs, repairs and refurbishment costs, operating costs and profits to be factored in. Despite the appellant having marketed the site to a number of potential parties which might show an interest in acquiring the freehold, this was not an open exercise to all potential purchasers and consequently it had not been proven that there was no longer a need for such a community facility.

In addition, the inspector expressed concern about the proposed access which would provide insufficient visibility splays. This would compromise highway safety. Although the benefits to the local centre and local economy went a substantial way towards outweighing the harm to protected trees and to the living conditions of local residents, it did not justify the loss of the public house. Nor did the potential for the public house to be converted into a shop under permitted development rights, leading to less harmful impacts relative to the appeal proposal, sway the inspector.  Under such a scenario the public house would be replaced by a local shop which was also of community value.

Inspector: John Woolcock; Inquiry

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