Wednesday, 29 April 2015

You broke it - you fix it!

A week or so ago I read that a pub which Historic England (formerly English Heritage) had been been about to recommend for listing was hastily demolished by developers before that could happen. Typical, I thought, but now I've learnt that Westminster Council has issued an order to the developers to rebuild the pub, the Carlton Tavern which dates from the early 1920s, exactly as it was, and they are banned from selling the site until they have done so. The full story is in the London Evening Standard here.

Inevitably the developers have said they'll appeal, and I've no doubt they have a good chance of winning, but this action by the council is a welcome contrast to the usual municipal reaction of tut-tutting and imposing a feeble fine that the developers had probably set aside a budget for anyway.

I'm reminded of the Tommy Ducks in Manchester. This was a well-known pub, full  of character
although not remarkable in architectural terms. It was (in)famous for having an entire ceiling covered with pairs of women's pants, apparently donated for the collection by some of the female regulars. The beer was nothing much, Greenall Whitley, but this was long before the Beer Orders in the days when we had to accept that many pubs had boring beer. One day the owners sent in the bulldozers and the Tommy Ducks was no more. There was vague talk about ordering them to rebuild the pub, but nothing came of it.

The order to rebuild by Westminster Council is, as far as I know, the first of its kind, mainly because councils are understandably worried about the prospect of losing a case and incurring massive costs, which they are much less able to afford than than their developer opponents. On the other hand, even if the developers win their appeal, the appeal process and the delay ("Time is money!") will cost them dear, and may deter others who are contemplating a similar course of action, not just to pubs but to any interesting buildings. Let's hope that Westminster's action also inspires other councils to stand up more to to corporate bullying.


  1. I remember Tommy Ducks from my student days in Manchester, Nev. Yes the beer was grotty (Greenalls) and, like you say, the pub was no architectural gem, but the behaviour of the developers in demolishing it overnight was appalling.

    This case has similar parallels, but even if the Carlton Tavern is rebuilt, many of the original features, including the attractive and historic Charringtons tiling, will unfortunately be lost forever. Nevertheless, Westminster Council are to be congratulated for their stance against this form of corporate vandalism, even though the proposed rebuilding might not actually go ahead.

  2. All praise to the council - developers should not be allowed to blatantly break the rules and get away with it.

  3. The council are elected and if the people want a pile of rubble then they should have one.


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