Photo by Kake Pugh.
Following the Crooked House case, investigation by grassroots campaigners from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reveals a troubling approach to pub protection.
In the wake of the tragic loss of the Crooked House, Himley, national attention is firmly on councils’ role in protecting pubs, and how they take enforcement action when others flout planning rules.
Now a spotlight is being cast further afield on the actions of pub owners and councils across the UK. In the case of The Picture Palace, owner and council are one and the same, as Enfield Council has ruled that the pub can be used as a restaurant, despite establishing that the use of the building is a pub with food provision, and being the freehold owners of the property.
Once a thriving community hub, no planning permission has been granted to change the use of the site from a pub to a restaurant. Enfield Council has opted instead to declare the new use lawful.
Commenting on the actions of the Council, CAMRA’s Regional Director for London, Ellie Eames said:
“Public houses are a vital part of local life and the Picture Palace was a wonderful example of a place at the heart of the community where people could come together to socialise.
“This irreplaceable social value is part of why pubs are protected by national planning regulations and the Local Plan approved by Enfield Council itself. It is troubling that the Council appears unconcerned about the potential use of the Picture House as a restaurant, without a full change of use application, especially when they are the freehold owners.”
A first stage complaint made by the CAMRA branch has not been upheld, with Enfield stating that its ownership has no bearing on planning or enforcement functions.
Despite the venue boasting architectural features from its days as a cinema, and much-loved murals of Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, it remains unclear what will become of the venue ‘s interior, and whether it will be affected by the potential need to demolish a side extension for which retrospective planning is currently being considered following its unauthorised construction.
Commenting, CAMRA’s director of Pub and Club Campaigns, Gary Timmins said: “While councils such as South Staffordshire have committed to being proactive about using all pub protection policies available to them in the face of the high-profile loss of the Crooked House, others should not intervene in the fate of pubs without consulting local communities.
“Our most recent pub closure data suggested that up to a third of pub losses may be unauthorised, meaning a pub like the Crooked House or the Picture Palace could be being converted every six days without relevant permissions.
“This tragedy plays out across the nation and CAMRA wants to see stronger national rules that require local authorities to take enforcement action where pubs are unlawfully converted or demolished.”