Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Hydrangea Petiolaris

Doing a lot of flowers these rainy days.

Merton Council's deciding to refuse consent for this important community amenity to be turned into mixed retail and residential use has my strong support.

The Council made the right decision - as evidenced by the remarkable level of popular support that has grown for keeping the pub for community use. This building should be remade as a pub that is relevant to its customers and the community it serves.

The Morden Tavern is not intrinsically a failed pub... it is a business that has serially failed through decades of chronic under-investment in the premises. Still potentially viable pubs across the UK are suffering the same fate to devastating effect on their communities many of whom have nowhere at all to socialise, meet and commune.

For almost thirty years the national pub estate has been under the tenure of private equity driven pubcos. Pubcos' have delivered extraordinary financial returns by charging thousands of lessees so much for the privilege of running their pubs they've had nothing left to put back into the fabric of their tenants' own, fully repairing and insuring business premises.

These companies' irrepressible lust for extracting maximum profit from pubs with minimal investment has systemically, permanently asset stripped Britain of a substantial part of its unique heritage. This is a collective act of gross short-term irresponsibility which should be regarded as nothing less than a Cultural Crime. The grave consequence is that, along with their last pubs, communities everywhere are in real danger of losing their very Sense of Place.

The Morden Tavern holds a special place for people from St Helier and the community beyond; it is the last of the social amenities that were built for them. For decades People - individuals, families, friends and neighbours used the pub for Christenings, birthdays, weddings and funerals; meeting rooms, balls, dances, Christmas and New Year. The pub would still be a vibrant social hub and its community would still be using it if it had not been run down through the bad management of its freeholders. They want to come back to the pub, it's only circumstances that have kept them away.

Irrespective of the pub's social, cultural and heritage value there IS a strong business case for keeping the pub as a pub - the active community group is proving this while researching, consulting and scoping the pub's true potential for great social impact and energising its community.

If the pub were sensitively restored to be fit for purpose as a contemporary public house this building will undoubtedly continue its long life as the focal point of a diverse community, as designed when built.

I am a publican and have been a personal license holder since 1986. I am a founder member of the Fair Pint Campaign and have given evidence to Select Committees looking into the relationship between Pubco's and tied pub lessees. In 2003 I co founded SE5 Forum for Camberwell, the area I have lived and worked for almost twenty years. I care passionately about pubs and the various vital roles they can play in sustaining, building and developing social capital and help create competent communities.

Planning comment 5 July

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