Council's U-turn as demolition of pub did need planning permission

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

U-turn made: Mole Valley District Council has apologised for confusion over the demolition of the Royal Oak
U-turn made: Mole Valley District Council has apologised for confusion over the demolition of the Royal Oak

Related tags: Town and country planning in the united kingdom, Public house

Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) has apologised and said "lessons have been learnt" after it became "confused" as to whether planning permission was required for the demolition of a pub in Leatherhead - which campaigners described as "illegal".

Campaigners who had set up a petition to save the Royal Oak, Kingston Road, were left outraged after the pub was torn down without planning permission​ in November, which they believed to be illegal.

After they appealed to the council, MVDC said that although it hadn't authorised the demolition, it believed it would have been "generally permitted" under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015, and decided to take no further action.

However, the council has since backtracked, and said in a statement that planning permission was indeed required due to the Government supporting an amendment to the order back in March 2017, which made it harder for big chains and developers to change the use or demolish pubs.

Sincere apologies

Karen Brimacombe, chief executive of the council, said: "I am very aware of the ongoing concern regarding the demolition of the pub. There is no doubt that the council has learnt lessons from this case.

"There was confusion on our part regarding whether or not planning permission was required for the demolition for which I offer my sincere apologies."

Brimacombe explained that after the council received additional information from a number of residents and, having had the "opportunity to review the case in more detail", it became clear that "earlier in the year, the amendment to the General Permitted Development Order was enacted to give more protection to public houses​".

"Specifically, the amendment added a provision that indicates demolition is not permitted by the General Permitted Development Order where the building is used or was last used as a drinking establishment within Class 4 of the Use Classes Order," she continued.

"Consequently, it was recognised that the demolition of the Royal Oak did require planning permission. As no planning application had been submitted or granted, the demolition was unauthorised."

Still not illegal

However, Brimacombe added that although planning permission was needed, the demolition was still not illegal and, as such, a prosecution could not have been brought against those responsible for the demolition.

"Consideration was then given to any other action that could be taken," she continued.

"Given that the Royal Oak was not a listed building, in a conservation area or on the register of assets of community value, and as the demolition was already well under way, it was concluded that there really was no viable follow up action that could be taken.

"I appreciate how difficult this must be to understand and would like to put arrangements in place for a public meeting with local residents in order to discuss this further."

Although, moving forward, Brimacombe confirmed that "if and when" a planning application is made to redevelop the site, MVDC will require the applicant to demonstrate that the site is no longer required for a community facility.

"A report showing how the site has been marketed for community uses will be required, together with evidence that there has been consultation with an appropriate range of service providers and the community," she continued.

"In addition, MVDC would be looking for additional information concerning the viability of the public house business in recent years."

Since the demolition, the derelict site has been victim to fires, fly-tipping, and unauthorised travellers​ moving on to it.

The Morning Advertiser​ has contacted MVDC for further comment but has not yet had a reply.

Related topics: Property law

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