Plans to turn The Rose Hill Tavern into housing have been rejected following a campaign by residents to save it from developers.
Joanne Harris of Evenden Estates bought the pub from Enterprise Inns last year and wants to turn it into two flats, with the city council’s planning department recommended granting her application.
However, officers said the arguments for and against the change of use were finely balanced, particularly as it is listed as an asset of community action following a community campaign – a decision upheld by a judge last week.
And today, Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee rejected the plans.
Save the Rose Hill Tavern Action Group Dave Boyle told today’s meeting at Portslade Town Hall: “This notion that it’s substitutable only works if you view it as a place which sells liquid.
“It’s a place where a character has developed, it’s not substitutable. The London Road vertical drinking establishments are not a substitute for people who want a quiet place to go for a drink.
“It’s one of only two assets of community value in the city. There are people who want to run this as a community asset.
“We urge councillors not to reject this and be the council who goes against its residents wishes.”
Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Mr Baring said: “Many of the objectors do not even reside in Brighton. Of the 23 letters, 11 are outside Brighton, and seven are from people living in Brighton but not close to the pub.
“One Rose Hill Terrace resident said the pub caused nuisance and was not supported by local residents.”
He added: “There are at least ten pubs within walking distance of the pub. The loss of the pub, which has now been closed for a year, will not cause any loss to residents.”
Cllr Bill Randall said he was concerned if the pub was to continue to trade, it would face stiff competition.
He said: “The Mitre not far away is an old fashioned city centre pub. You did say you can’t test the viability unless you do it, but you must have some idea.
“It concerns me that with the competition all around, it might not work.”
Cllr Leo Littman said comparing the tavern to the pubs on London Road was like comparing apples to oranges, adding: “The Rose Hill Tavern has a very interesting history – at one point it was owned by the University of Sussex Union which was deeply strange.
“I’m not prepared to support officer’s recommendations.
Cllr Ian Davey said: “I’ve watched this from some time as a ward councillor and I remember how it went from For Sale to Sale Agreed at great pace.
“I hope the purchaser was fully aware it had the potential to be listed as an asset of community value.
“It seems to me the owners previously and possibly currently have been determined to realise its value as housing and are willing to set aside its value as a pub.”
Cllr Geoffrey Wells said: “Owners such as Enterprise Inns charge an extortionate rent and dictate the price of ales and spirits which they have to buy directly from them.
“We’ve lost the London Unity, we’ve lost the Albion Inn … a lot of these little pubs in Brighton, I’m afraid.
“I’m not too convinced anyone else could run this pub with a profit.”
However, Cllr Graham Cox said pubs were opening as well as closing every week, and the Rose Hill Tavern was not equivalent to The Bevy, a pub in Bevendean which is run by the community.
He said: “I do think we need to be selective and not agree to save every pub, otherwise we lose credibility.
“I rather do suspect if we do turn this down against officers’ recommendation, it will be overturned on appeal, costing us money.”
Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty said: “The stained glass and the interior are incredibly important. I’m no interior historian, but I believe the inside is original 1930s and would have intrinsic value.
“Camra has described the pub in glowing fashion. It’s a unique place of great beauty and a wonderful community asset.
“Pubs aren’t just for drinking, they remind us that communities have hearts.”
The committee noted that the pub had been recommended for local listing, and that the applicant was intending on retaining its distinctive green tiling.
It was also reminded that it was not allowed to take the viability of the pub into consideration when deciding the application.
Three voted to grant the applications, seven to refuse with two abstentions.
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