Fight to keep Victorian heritage lost

By Alice Leader contact

- Last updated on GMT

Keeping tradition: campaigners left disappointed after listing application is rejected
Keeping tradition: campaigners left disappointed after listing application is rejected

Related tags: Listed building, Protest

Concerns have been raised after a Victorian pub was denied listed status to protect its heritage and deter developers who wanted to convert the site into flats.

The Squirrel (formerly known as the Skiddaw) in Maida Hill, north-west London, was shut down last year after the business was deemed no longer “viable”.

The pub has since been subject to a planning application for the conversion of into five residential flats.

This spurred many protests and pub campaigners to reach out to Historic England to protect its heritage from development – but the application has been rejected.

A disappointing outcome

On 5 November, a tweet by @savehalfmoonpub read: “The outcome is disappointing and raises questions about the protection our built Victorian pub heritage has.”

The pub has traded since 1871, and is a prominent mid-Victorian public house that still retain elements of its original internal design scheme.

It is considered a pub interior of ‘some regional significance’ by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Pub Heritage Group.

However, pub campaigner Peter Blair said previous landlords have made serious alterations to the original features, including a mahogany bar that has now been painted.

Fighting for status

Blair said: “I think one of the issues that we’re facing, not just development pressures, is that there is actually very little protection, inside and out, for Victorian pubs.

“Once landlords mess around with the Victorian features, then there’s very little local people can do to fight for a listed status.”

Historic England listing adviser Luke Jacob said: “Listing is a statutory process and decisions are made by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

“Overall, the Squirrel is a notable building within its ‘streetscape’ with clear local historic interest, but it is not considered to meet the criteria for statutory listing.”

A gap in the system

Blair said he understands it would be impossible to list every Victorian pub in the country and that certain criteria must be met otherwise the status won’t have the same prestige. But he said there is something missing in the system to protect these pubs.

He explained: “Councils have a bigger role to play here. They have the power to create local listing that gives some degree of planning protection but very few councils exercise this. That would be great idea and could be a way forward. 

“We’re in limbo. The pub’s shut and there's nobody there to take it over and turn it back into a pub – because, ultimately, that would be the best outcome.”

However, there has been a turn of events as of yesterday (6 November).

The planning application for housing conversion was refused by the Westminster Council and the pub is now back on the market. 

Related topics: Property law

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