Suttons Radio, Lewisham
Happier times: Suttons Radio opened in 2017 but did not last long

Lewisham town centre could lose one of its most high-profile pubs forever if plans submitted by the building’s owner are approved by the council.

The long-anticipated Suttons Radio pub opened in November 2017 but without a permanent food offering it struggled to attract customers and was put up for sale just 11 months later. It was later used as a pop-up food venue but its doors have been locked since the start of the pandemic.

Property company Anerley Estate, which bought the building from pub company Antic last year, now plans to convert the pub into retail space, as part of a wider plan which also includes building two extra storeys for housing.

The pub was named after a former business on the site whose name was uncovered during building works. The bar had been known under various names over the years – the Quaggy Duck in the late 1990s and the Market Tavern a decade later – but had been closed for some years before it was taken on by Antic, known as much for its property dealings as its pubs.

A planning application to Lewisham Council reveals that Antic paid £2.02 million for the site in 2016 – but made a loss of £260,000 when it sold up to Anerley Estate.

Anerley Estate render
Anerley has submitted a separate application to build two storeys on top of the Suttons Radio building

It was Antic’s second attempt at a pub in Lewisham after it sold the Ravensbourne Arms for development in 2016, only five years after it opened. A Deptford record shop, Sister Midnight, is hoping to buy it and turn it into a community music venue.

While the town centre has lost a number of pubs in the past three decades – the Mid-Kent Tavern and Duke of Cambridge were flattened for the Docklands Light Railway in the 1990s while the Roebuck and Plough have also been lost to development – Lewisham Council has strong pro-pub policies, meaning Anerley’s application to change the building’s use is not a foregone conclusion.

Anerley says in its application: “The loss of the current vacant pub would not result in an under provision of pubs in the local area. This is because the local area has a higher provision of pubs per capita compared to the rest of Lewisham [borough] and Greater London.

“Therefore there is no clear need for the existing pub use to be retained. Similarly, the past failure of the pub indicates that there may not be sufficient local demand.”

To see the application and send comments to Lewisham Council, visit its planning website.

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