The owner of a landmark pub must reverse work done to turn the building into flats after losing an appeal against the council.
After The Antelope, in Church Road, Leyton, closed after almost 140 years in 2014, residents were horrified to see owner Tvzi Ltd convert it into 14 studio flats and a shop.
Waltham Forest Council ordered the company to reverse the changes, carried out without planning permission, but the owner appealed to the Planning Inspectorate in an attempt to overturn the decision.
In November last year, representatives for owner Sam Denciger of Tvzi Ltd and the council appeared at a hearing over the future of the historic building.
On November 18, Mr Denciger’s representative Alvin Ormonde told planning inspector Richard Perrins the building was “not wanted” as a pub.
He said: “My client would let it as a pub tomorrow if somebody would come along to take it. I don’t believe it’s a viable pub given what’s in the area and what’s available.
“They had no interest (when they bought the building) of taking away the pub but it has been proven over the past six years that it’s not wanted.”
Council lawyer Melissa Murphy argued the inability of the previous tenant, who left in 2014, to pay the rent “does not mean that the business was not viable”.
She said: “Your client has been admirably candid about the reason he bought the building… he thought it would be a good opportunity for redevelopment.
“It’s hardly surprising that nobody has contacted the owner (to run it as a pub) when it has not been actively marketed.”
Yesterday (January 18), hundreds of residents who fought to save the pub were excited to learn the owner’s appeal had been denied, meaning they will have to reverse the changes within six months.
Planning inspector Mr Perrins wrote: “I do not accept that there was an attempted ‘campaign’ (by the owner) to save the pub.
“On the evidence, that ‘campaign’ amounted to one tweet from a Twitter account with some 12 followers, with no subsequent responses; it carries no weight.
“Local people… have an undisputed desire to investigate the possibilities of a community pub and do not want the community asset to be lost.”
Tvzi submitted a 109-page document arguing the pub could not profit but Mr Perrins felt a number of important factors were not considered by the author, who “is not an expert in the leisure industry”.
He found the document did not consider the area’s transport links or the closure of competing businesses since 2014 and that some comparisons, including to a champagne bar, “were not helpful”.
Furthermore, after visiting the building in person, he wrote the new flats were “cramped” and “unacceptable” as housing.
Residents Michelle Connolly and Curran McKay, who both spoke at the hearing, said they were “delighted” at the result.
They said: “It is a huge win, and the first step in a long journey to restore The Antelope to being a pub for all in the local area.”
Speaking in November, neighbour Ciaran O’Shea said the issue had “galvanised” the community.
He said: “Buildings like that are part of the charm of the area. It’s a beautiful, striking building in a prominent location.
“It has a connection to the local working class culture that has been the identity of the area for some time.
“Especially after COVID, the idea of having somewhere safe and close where people can get together is really needed.”
Mr Perrins also ruled that Tvzi must pay Waltham Forest Council back some of the money it spent defending the enforcement notices.
A council spokesperson confirmed today that it was still calculating “details of the relevant costs”.
However, they explained that the council’s victory does not mean, as some residents hoped, that the owner will be forced to restore the interior of the pub to its former state.
They explained: “The Enforcement Notice requires the use of the ground floor of the premises to be returned to its authorised public house use, but we are unable to require that the pub premises is reinstated exactly ‘as was’.”