However, the fight over the Chesham Arms continues as, after two days of arguments into plans for the 150-year-old pub, the inquiry was adjourned until September.
Campaigners said they felt quietly confident that last week’s hearing had gone well and are eagerly awaiting the Planning Inspector’s summing up in the autumn.
The debate centres around the closure of the Mehetabel Road pub in October 2012 and owner Mukund Patel’s conversion of part of the upper floor into a flat. After Hackney Council served an enforcement notice on Patel for converting the flat without planning permission, he appealed to the Planning Inspector, triggering the inquiry.
Campaigners last year fought of a legal challenge by Patel to the listing of the pub as an asset of community value.
Martyn Williams gave evidence at last week’s inquiry on behalf of the Churchwell Residents Group.
He told the inquiry, held at the Hackney Picturehouse, the division of the building into a pub with separate accommodation above was “highly likely to lead directly to permanent closure”. He said the loss of the use of the building for the purpose it was designed for would cause “just as much damage to the heritage asset as alterations to the fabric of the building”.
He added: “Residents have been battling now for approaching two years to get the pub reopened. Yet much of what they have attempted to do has been frustrated by one simple fact – the appellant bought the property at a price significantly above its market value as an ill-researched, speculative investment. The hope was he could quickly convert it to flats and make a good profit.
“His failure to research the obstacles to this has resulted in him now being stuck – not prepared to bear the financial loss of selling the building at its true market value, but unable to carry out the conversion he had hoped.”
Save the Chesham secretary James Watson, who also gave evidence, said after the inquiry: “I was very impressed with the way the inspector conducted the inquiry. He seemed to be smiling and frowning in the same places as us, so that gives us hope.”
Allen Planning Ltd, which advised Patel and gave evidence at the hearing, did not respond to the PMA’s request for comment.