The developer (Redbourne) has won its appeal to demolish The Queensbury pub and erect 48 flats at 110 Walm Lane NW2. The Queensbury, as we know it, is to be demolished and replaced with a six storey box-shaped building with a metal roof which should include a new, glass-fronted public house.
This is the result of the appeal of late August 2019, following Brent Council refusing permission in May 2018. We defended the building in a five day public inquiry, when both Redbourne and the pub operator set out a case to demolish the pub. The inspector has concluded that the building can be demolished and (importantly) the replacement should incorporate a new public house.
The community has fought hard to retain the historic building at 110 Walm Lane which has been used continually by the people of Mapesbury and Willesden since 1896. We successfully fought off three other planning applications and one previous appeal since the building was purchased by a developer in 2012 but without proper protection by Brent Council (and a poorly handled defence at appeal) the battle has been lost.
A little bit of heritage will be lost when The Queensbury is demolished and conservation in Mapesbury is no longer.
We have “won” a new pub, to be on the ground floor of the development, so have we Saved The Queensbury? Only time will tell.
At best, the character of The Queensbury will be lost and the current outdoor drinks terrace will be turned to paving, surrounded by cycle racks and blending onto the pavement with café style tables and chairs rather than pub beer garden. The replacement does have a larger floor area, but with shorter licenced hours to sit outside. The kitchen is tiny and inside is a more sterile, glass building which locals have described as a hotel lobby or railway station waiting room. There is a dedicated community space, with a small outdoor area attached and the current operator has committed to keep that relationship going.
Our worry is that the track record of developers actually including a pub in a mixed development (even though the plans approve this now) is dire. It is not always their fault, but developers tend not to like pubs in new builds. This is because the value of the “market” flats (which are at the front) will decrease by having a pub below.
Too often during construction the “viability” of including a pub is thrown into doubt and developers return to the council for a change of use. Even if it opens, complaints about noise follow, rates are increased, pub viability is questioned and the developer seeks permission to change use to a café or retail in the future.
We are not paranoid nor distrustful; this is happening all over London and when we asked Brent Council and the developer for examples where they have done this successfully neither could offer a response. Given this, a pub at 110 Walm Lane is still some years from being a permanent fixture.
On the bright side, we won two major commitments during the appeal.
1. The developer will have to return to Brent Council if they want to change from a pub to another use. This enables the public and local residents to scrutinise any plan to change use.
2. The developer has to work with Busy Rascals (the baby and toddler community group) to find them an alternative space if and when building work begins. This is so they can carry on their brilliant work in the community, returning to the replacement pub if and when one emerges. Again, the plans look promising.
But what’s promised today does not always appear tomorrow.
All in all we started this process in 2012 with a 10 storey tower and no pub. We end 2019 with a smaller block and commitment of a pub, if best intentions are delivered.