- Isle of Man-based developer Menzoa wants to build 7 flats and a retail store at the White Swan in Charlton, which has been closed since 2020
- Tesco is named in planning documents that have gone to Greenwich Council
- a community group has been hoping to take over the closed pub
- you can submit your views to Greenwich Council - email planningapps[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk with reference 23/2374/F
Charlton’s much-loved White Swan pub could become a Tesco store, planning documents submitted to Greenwich Council suggest.
The building, which has been closed since March 2020, would be extended into the beer garden with the upper floors converted into seven flats, according to a application submitted by the Isle of Man-based property company Mendoza.
Mendoza’s proposals include building two extra floors, making it into a four-storey building: the pub was built in 1889 with three floors but lost its upper floor during the Second World War.
Plans to convert the current upper floor into two flats were thrown out earlier this year. The owner, Mendoza’s sister company Associate Properties, carried out work regardless, with the upper floors – which had been occupied by squatters – described as “managers’ accommodation” in marketing materials.
Mendoza’s plans threaten the hopes of a community group who had hoped to get a grant to help buy the Swan and turn it into the base for a music and arts charity while keeping the building as a pub.
A report prepared by Mendoza’s marketing agent, Jenkins Law, wrongly claims the pub closed in November 2019 but adds that eight parties looked at taking on the White Swan before Tesco put forward a proposal in December 2022. Tesco has been asked for comment.
Mendoza bought the freehold to the Swan from Punch Taverns for £900,000 in April 2015, although Land Registry data reveals that in December that year the building was sold again, to Associate Properties Ltd, based in the same office in the Manx capital, Douglas, for £1.2 million.
After a protracted battle, Mendoza won permission to build a house on land behind the White Swan in November 2020 after a casting vote by Stephen Brain, Greenwich’s planning chair at the time. However, work has yet to start.
Since January 2021 the property has been mortgaged. That charge is now held by Apex, a financial services company based in Bermuda.
The pub was taken on by Geoff Keen, the manager of the Pelton Arms in Greenwich, in 2016, and the revived local quickly became a favourite with music and football fans. But the keys were handed back on March 9, 2020 – just a couple of weeks before the coronavirus lockdown.
“We consider that it is unrealistic for the property to continue as a drinking establishment evidenced by the previous tenant’s failure to operate viably despite apparent community support and the extremely poor level of interest throughout the marketing campaign,” Jenkins Law said.
The Greenwich Wire understands that the rent charged was about £65,000 a year for the whole building, including rooms upstairs that had been converted to function spaces, although we have not been able to corroborate this figure. When Mendoza won permission to build in the pub beer garden in 2020, its planning consultant conceded that the rent may have been too high.
Mendoza insisted that it was committed to reopening the Swan as a pub, but buyers appear to have baulked at demands for up to £50,000 in rent each year for the ground floor and basement. It later put the whole building on the market for £80,000 a year, something not mentioned in Jenkins Law’s marketing report.
All the flats would be for private sale or rent. There is no obligation on developers to include any “affordable” housing in any scheme of fewer than ten homes.
“We firmly believe that the transformation of the existing building into a mixed-use space, encompassing both residential and retail functions, will bring about positive changes to the area’s assets,” architect Milan Babic says in a planning document. “This conversion will not only introduce new employment opportunities and living spaces for potential renters or buyers but also enhance the overall well-being of the current residents in the vicinity.”
Mendoza and Associate Properties share their HQ in Douglas with another company, Hamna Wakaf, which owns the Vanbrugh in Greenwich.
Plans for a house at the rear of the Vanbrugh were approved by planning inspectors in 2021 after years of refusals from the council. The housing plans for both the Vanbrugh and the Swan both had Milan Babic as an architect, as does this new plan.
The Vanbrugh had been on the market for £90,000 per year, and recently reopened under a new name, the Duke of Greenwich.
Full details of the plans, including the key design and access statement and marketing reports are on the Greenwich Council planning website, where comments can also be left. Comments can also be sent to planningapps[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk, quoting reference 23/2374/F. To find out more about the White Swan Music & Arts group, sign up to its mailing list.