Refugee housing plans for Brighton pub abandoned after neighbours question owner’s motives

Posted On 25 Mar 2022 at 12:44 pm

The owner of a pub who said he wanted to “donate” it to house refugees has said he has abandoned his scheme after neighbours questioned his motives.

Charlie Southall bought the Montreal Arms in Hanover “on a whim” and days after getting the keys launched an £85,000 crowdfunder, saying he needed the money to do it up and allow Ukranian women and children to live there for three years.

Before the pub was sold, its former owners Stonegate had estimated it would cost more than £90,000 for a basic renovation, including fixing damp problems and electrical rewiring.

These plans would have involved a change of use from pub to residential, which Brighton and Hove City Council now only grants after a venue has been advertised as a pub for at least two years at a fair market rent with no interest.

A change of use to residential would significantly increase the building’s value.

After criticism of the plans online, Mr Southall held a public meeting, which became heated.

Today, he posted a video on the Hanover Community Noticeboard Facebook group, saying the project would not be proceeding.

He said: “I promised I would not monetise a project designed to help refugees. I responded to all concerns put to me but it made little difference and the attacks kept coming.

“Some were personal attacks. Some even tried to claim I was rotten at the core and, you know what, it worked.”

He added: “I’m announcing today this project will not be going ahead. It’s over. There won’t be any women or children refugees in that old pub.

“I think some people need to take a step back and look at what they’ve done.

“The mean-spirited opinions of a small group of people have directly influenced this and they’ve silenced others.”

Mr Southall did not say what his plans for the pub would now be. He told Brighton and Hove News it was his own private property.

At the meeting, Councillor David Gibson suggested that he donate the flat above the pub, which has residential use, to house a smaller number of refugees. It appears this plan is not now being pursued.

In the video, Mr Southall also said that gofundme, which is hosting the crowdfunder, had received a call from someone saying the scheme could be a scam. At the time of publication, the crowdfunder was still live, with just over £2,000 in donations.

  1. Emmie Spencer Reply

    Thank for all your work reporting on this scam Jo Wadsworth and your clear presentation of the facts – this is what local journalism should be about

  2. Charly Reply

    He ruined the tiles on the facade because normal people wouldn’t pay for him to profit. If he’s a millionaire why couldn’t he pay for the renovations? Petty sad little man

  3. John T Reply

    says on his company Dragonfly website they plan everything to last detail.

  4. Matt S Reply

    Using a crisis to change use to make lots of money.

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