Vanburgh Tavern house
The design of the planned house is almost identical to the last attempt

A developer has won an appeal to build housing on land behind one of Greenwich’s best-loved pubs, nearly a year after its latest proposal was rejected by Greenwich Council.

Hamna Wakaf Ltd had applied for permission to build a three-storey property on land between the beer garden of The Vanbrugh pub and Vanbrugh Hill.

Developers have made several attempts to build on the land since the 1970s, and in August 2018, a planning inspector rejected an appeal against Greenwich Council’s refusal of a similar scheme for the site.

In January 2020, the most recent proposal was thrown out by Greenwich Council officers without it going to councillors to decide. The council received 370 objections to the application. Local councillor Chris Lloyd and MP Matt Pennycook have also spoken out against the plans.

Objectors fear future occupiers of the house will threaten the future of the pub by complaining about noise from it.

A new planning inspector, G Powys Jones, overturned the decision and granted Hamna Wakaf permission for the building, saying that the council’s own planning rules did not forbid the development. (Read the full decision.)

Council officers had said that the proposed private garden for the house, which would be in two sections, would be unsuitable for children to play in. But Powys Jones said there was nothing in the council’s own rules to back them up. “I can see nothing there to suggest that the garden area could not be divided, or that it must be green,” the inspector said.

“Indeed, if the test of appropriateness of an external amenity area is largely dependent on its attraction or usefulness to accommodate the needs of young children then, in my experience, particularly in the winter and during inclement weather all year round, a hard-surfaced, partly sheltered amenity space would prove useful and beneficial.

“Moreover, the two main amenity spaces have been specifically designed so that they could be used as active extensions to the internal living areas with easy mutual accessibility. With safety in mind, the well thought out design would make the supervision of young children at play that much easier. Accordingly, whilst the form of amenity space provision may not match the normal perception of a suburban garden, it would nevertheless to my mind be fit for the purpose intended in terms of quantity and quality.”

As for fears for the pub’s future, the inspector added: “Neither the council nor local residents have presented firm empirical evidence to support the contention that the pub’s viability would be affected by the loss of part of its beer garden, indeed, the council does not object on this basis.

“Although I understand the basis of local residents’ concerns, in the absence of firm, convincing evidence I could not reasonably conclude that the pub’s future would be put in doubt as a direct consequence of this development proposal coming to fruition.”

In November, a similar scheme to build a house behind the White Swan in Charlton was approved on the casting vote of planning chair Stephen Brain, after three unsuccessful attempts by the property developer that owns the pub, Mendoza. A few days before, developers won an appeal against Lewisham Council’s refusal of plans to build flats above the White Hart on New Cross Road.

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