Campaigners fighting to save a Brighton pub were left frustrated when planners approved new flats above it.
Two existing flats above the Dyke Alehouse and Kitchen in Dyke Road can now be remodelled into three flats after receiving approval from Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee on Wednesday 8 January.
The development would take space away from the pub kitchen, its cold store and part of the former pub garden to provide a hallway and bike shed – which would involve the removal of a dovecote.
And another planning application – yet to be decided – has been lodged with the council to build a house in the remaining part of the garden, which is now fenced off.
Campaigner Jo Redfern of Dyke Road and Highcroft Villas Local Community Pub and Save the Dyke Pub Group told the committee they were concerned this would damage the viability of the Grade II listed pub.
She said people in the area were delighted when the pub and its garden were made Assets of Community Value in 2016, and since it reopened last year, it is now a thriving part of the area with multiple community events.
So when the community heard about the application they submitted 64 letters of objection.
In her presentation to the Planning Committee Mrs Redfern quoted the National Planning Policy Framework saying the the harm caused to the “Heritage Asset” was more than the benefit of an extra two bedroom flat.
She said: “After a three year fight to get this pub re-established and open, we feel like this is an apple and these developments are a series of bites taking it down to a core.
“The building is a protected landmark structure and the two plans will fundamentally change this structure with the removal of a historical dovecote and move the building further away from looking like a pub.”
Neighbours are concerned the pub garden is fenced off, despite being part of the Asset of Community Value – but councillors were told this is not something that can be considered as part of the planning process.
Mrs Redfern added: “The reopening of the pub is a possible Trojan House, we have examples of those where residential space is built around a pub putting it at risk of closure.
“This is highlighted by plans to remove half the pub kitchen and cold store. It represents 30 per cent of the pub’s income. Without them the pub will not be able to supply food.”
Mrs Redfern and Green councillor for Preston Park ward, Amy Heley both raised the application for a house in the garden.
Councillor Heley said the future of the pub was put in jeopardy.
She said: “The cold store is a condition of the pub owner’s lease.
“The approval of these plans would directly threaten the closure of the Dyke pub.”
Planning consultant Colm McKee told the committee the freeholders LAN Estates Ltd are in discussion with the leaseholder Will Farmer to find a new location for the cold store.
Speaking during debate Conservative councillor Joe Miller said he would not support the application.
Councillor Miller said: “I’ve watched the saga of the Dyke Road pub with interest over the past four years.
“I do sympathise and agree with a lot of what the residents and community group have said.
“It does feel like the applicant shut down the pub with the intention of making it a residential unit and did not succeed with that because of the community activity and now is doing a piecemeal approach.
“I have got concerns on the extent of the extension at the rear and what it will do. It does look like the back of a terrace and my concern is looking at the back of a heritage building is equally important of the front.”
Preston Park ward Green councillor Leo Littman felt frustrated as in his heart he wanted to support the community but was constrained by planning law.
He said: “We are in a position where we can only object with a valid legal planning grounds on which to objection to an application.
“I cannot see these. It’s against my personal views I am going to support the officers.”
Labour councillor Daniel Yates backed Councillor Littman saying the committee could not ignore planning policy.
He said: “This is another one of those examples where piecemeal planning changes over a period of time ends up with us in this position.
“There appears to be something reasonable happening, and some members of the committee could reasonably have some unreasonable suspicions about the nature of what’s happening and what might happen next.”
Councillor Yates was concerned the development on the first floor could potentially impact on the pub.
The committee narrowly voted to approve the application by five votes to four.
Councillors Littman, Yates, Sue Shanks, Nick Childs and Tracey Hill approved the application, with Tom Druitt, Joe Miller, Bridget Fishleigh and Samer Bagaeen voting against.