In an alternative reality, the Council is giving itself a ‘pat on the back’

Author: Cyril Richert

New façade of the Alchemist pub in St John’s Hill

The façade of the Fishmonger/Alchemist pub in St John’s Hill has been “restored” with an additional element on the left of the original building. The Council is now claiming that it has been “restored back to its original Victorian-era splendour after the council took legal action to force the developer to rebuild it“.

However in reality the initial planning permission to knock down the façade and rebuild was refused, the developers did it anyway, then submitted a retrospective application similar to their original one, this time approved by the Council.

Alchemist pub as it was before demolition

Following the demolition of the former Fishmonger/Alchemist pub made without planning consent, the Council’s press release dated Tuesday 21st July 2015 said “The council responded to this unlawful demolition by launching enforcement action requiring the developer to rebuild it brick-by-brick.

And the chair of the Planning Application Committee, Sarah Mc Dermott said that the builders will have to use “the same materials and to the same architectural design“. This has been ignored by the developers who used modern masonry blocks (but at least the final result is what most people where expecting).

On 14th September 2016, the developers submitted a retrospective planning application 2016/0647, which was approved by the Council (7 votes in favour and 1 abstention). An objection from the Wandsworth Conservation Area Advisory Committee, saying that the building should be rebuild with its original details and materials, was dismissed.

In April 2016, officers in charge of the case said that they did not know the progress of the enforcement. It appears that Wandsworth Council decided to treat the retrospective application (similar to their initial application which was refused) as respecting the enforcement notice (which is the case if you consider that the enforcement notice was only telling them to do as they wished in their original application, i.e. knock down and rebuild the façade). 

Therefore, the statement from current Planning chairman Cllr Will Sweet saying: “this is excellent news and testament to the council sticking to its guns and insisting on the building’s complete restoration” is misleading at least. It is just another example of the disingenuous self-serving puffery that we have come to expect from Wandsworth Council’s over-active PR department. 

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