‘Utter vandalism’: owner of pub strips listed tiles after row with neighbours

A property developer has been accused of “utter vandalism” after he hired builders to hack vintage tiles off a locally listed pub.

Charlie Southall last week abandoned a crowdfunder to renovate the Montreal Arms so Ukranian refugees could be housed there after neighbours questioned his motives and pointed out the large profit he stood to make

On Tuesday morning, a team of workers started removing the green tiles from the Albion Hill pub as he handed out a leaflet claiming they were beyond repair. 

By 4pm, Brighton and Hove City Council had issued a stop notice, but by then large sections of the tiles had been destroyed. 

The Montreal Arms last September, before the pub was sold

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said the damage was “utter vandalism”, adding: “This absolutely cannot go unchallenged.”

Hanover resident Ruth Boyd said if the aim was to convert the pub into housing for refugees, there was no need to remove the tiles.

She said: “The fact that he’s chosen to attack the antique tiles – the most visible and arguably the most contentious part of the building – feels like a petty and bitter attack on the community.

“He doesn’t have planning permission or apparently the funds to do the necessary work for his ‘philanthropic project’ inside the building.

“Instead, he wastes time and money hacking away at the perfectly serviceable exterior of the property, knowing it would upset and offend those of us who want the Montreal to be able to continue as a public house.”

Another neighbour, Ken Frost, said: “The speed at which he is removing the tiles indicates that he wants the change of use to become a fait accompli.

“I trust and assume the council will stop this ASAP.”

Police were briefly called to the pub

Mr Southall told local media this month he had bought the pub “on a whim” before launching an £85,000 crowdfunder to do it up and allow Ukrainian women and children to live there for three years.

These plans would have involved a change of use from pub to residential, which Brighton and Hove City Council will now only grant 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 use would significantly increase the value of the building. 

Hanover and Elm Grove ward councillor Steph Powell said she was “fuming”.

She and fellow ward councillor Elaine Hills emailed Mr Southall and contacted Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning enforcement team and solicitors to establish the legal position.

Councillor Powell said: “Those tiles are well over 100 years old I suspect, and well-loved by locals.

“I can’t think what the owner hopes to achieve by doing this.”

The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Sue Shanks, said: “I’m angry that the owner of the Montreal Arms is trying to remove its green tiles, and I know a lot of residents are very upset as well.

“A member of our planning enforcement team visited the site earlier after receiving complaints.

“We believe there has been a breach of planning controls.

“We have told the owner that the work requires planning permission.

“We will be posting a temporary stop notice on site that will come into effect tomorrow.

“This means they will have to stop removing the tiles temporarily to allow consideration of next steps.”

Previous owners The Stonegate Gate group applied to remove the tiles last year. The application was withdrawn in October 2021 after objections.

A leaflet Mr Southall handed out to people asking why workers are removing the tiles stated many are damaged beyond repair.

He lays the blame on the previous owner for cutting through the glazing and nailing through the tiles, as well as large sections of missing, cracked and heavily weathered tiles.

It states there is no formal protection to the locally listed building, and the owner does not need to apply for listed building consent to change the property.

Mr Southall’s leaflet said: “The new property owner has exactly the same permitted development rights as any other property owner in the area, and it is entirely lawful for external features to be altered or removed.

“This is a privately owned property. Please respect the legal rights of the current property owner.”

The green tiles are a feature on several pubs in Brighton which were run by United Breweries. 

The Horse and Groom (now Village) in Islingword Road, the Rose Hill Tavern and the Heart and Hand are examples of United owned pubs with the same tiles.

A locally listed building is not the same as a listed building but one considered to be of special interest, because of its local historic, architectural, design or townscape value.

Mr Southall was approached for comment.

  1. Jo Dimbleby Reply

    Thanks Jo. I appreciate all the work you’ve done to bring this to the community’s attention. I just donated to Brighton and Hove News.

    I really hope the council and Caroline Lucas can do something to stop Charlie Southall completely gutting the Montreal Arms.

  2. Mike Beasley Reply

    let’s see what the local Green councillors can do to remedy the situation

    • Gareth Hall Reply

      Nothing in afraid as planning laws are set by central government. The building has local listed status but this gives no protection as listed status does. The council have got a stop notice so work can’t continue but that is only a temporary thing

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    As seen with the recent disability access and Rockwater the Planning Department is not fit for purpose, wealthy developers do what they want without even a slap on the wrist

    • Gareth Hall Reply

      The council can only work within the laws set by the government

  4. Paul Glenford Reply

    Man removes his tiles from his own property. Shocking news.

  5. Violet Reply

    What a pathetic tantrum. A property of architectural value irreparably vandalised by a sad little man in a fit of selfish pique. Absolutely unforgiveable. I’d hate to be a tenant in one of his other rental properties if this is what happens when he doesn’t get his own way.

    • John T Reply

      Abother Hoogstraten !
      Housing refugees was just a ploy.

  6. Tom H Reply

    This is tragic – I don’t live close to this former pub so don’t have a dog in the fight but honestly it’s pretty clear the owner Charlie Southall has done this out of spite and with no consideration for the local community. It’s obvious to anyone that even if this property were to convert to residential that the original features of the pub would have local/historic appeal and could have been retained in a sympathetic conversion.

  7. BrightonPublican Reply

    He would be well aware of the previous issues surrounding the tiles as no one buys property without looking into that, even a millionaire buying it ‘on a whim’! It’s one of the first articles that comes up when you Google. What a nasty, spiteful man. Good luck with the HMO application, I’m sure his neighbours will be well on side with that. There were plenty of publicans who wanted that site, we viewed it wasn’t right for us. I know there were others who went in with decent offers and years of experience. Utterly scandalous.

  8. Lex Angel Reply

    His other business dealings leave a lot to be desired too.

    • Amon Reply

      I’ve done business with Mr Southall in the past and he is one very nasty individual. It took TWO YEARS to get what he owed me after I started legal proceedings. Even then, he thought he could bully me into dropping my claim against him. He finally coughed up 24hrs before we were due in court.

  9. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    He sounds as though he aspires to be another Hoogstraten (who has trashed The Drive in Hove). The planet would be better without such people on it.

    • Daniel Harris Reply

      Does the Housing Act not give councils the legal right to purchase this? It would be good to see something like this happen and the council showing they care about our local heritage and spaces which are for the benefit of the wider community?

      Losing too many pubs and community spaces to developments and its a concern.

      Seeing the images and as a Brightonian I am sad too see the mess left. To be fair its gone too far now and it should be purchased by the council and residents given the opportunity to use the space for community use. Lease it back to the community!!

      • Christopher Hawtree Reply

        Mr. Southall needs a new tailor. One who will kit him out with a strait-jacket. He is evidently barking.

  10. RR Reply

    How not to ingratiate yourself with the local community. He was told that removing the tiles would go down like a lead balloon with locals (and it looks just as bad as predicted) yet he went ahead anyway. Here’s a tip: if you don’t like heritage, don’t buy an old building.

  11. Chris Reply

    He should pay to put it back how it originally was,otherwise other greedy reckless land owners will do the same

  12. Amon Reply

    At least Hoogstraten had half a brain. Southall, on the other hand, thinks he’s the genius and everyone else was born yesterday.

  13. Andrew Reply

    Shock and awe, a private land owner wants to make changes to his private property but all the ‘do gooders’ can do is complain. They expect the council to step in. How about you all get together and start a fund to buy it from him instead of expecting the council to spend money that could go to pay the rubbish removal men. Get a grip you wining people and realise that just because you don’t like something we all must follow. Thank goodness I don’t live in Brighton and have council taxes wasted on stupid ideas like cycle lanes that nobody uses and now on buying a building just to replace some green tiles. Get a grip people.

    • Paul Reply

      We are glad you don’t live in Brighton either. Now go back to complaining about your own council.

  14. Keith Reply

    Why did the tiles need to be removed?

  15. Billy Short Reply

    As it happens, I lived opposite this pub for over 30 years. In that period, two other pubs in the same road closed down, and several more in the Hanover area have gone.
    We care about this one because it has the distinctive green tiles that date back to the 1920s and which mark out a few other well known pubs in the area. They remind us of earlier times, where there was a shop or pub on every corner.
    The new owner has attempted to remove the tiles because they are the very thing that makes this a landmark building for the community. As with any heritage decor, or original detail, once it’s gone it’s gone for ever.

    This pub closed during the covid pandemic and the lack of outside space meant they couldn’t really reopen until all the indoor mixing rules had been ditched.
    It was never a popular or busy pub, so I doubt that users would have considered buying it, but I’m guessing most would want the frontage to be kept, even if the building is converted for residential use.
    The advantage to the developer in removing the tiles is that gets round the possibility that the building remains as a pub, plus if converting into flats you could reposition door or windows. His actions are entirely financially motivated.

    Why do we care? Well, the Hanover area is unique in Brighton. My own house was build in the 1890s and for a while the whole area was seen as an outdated Victorian slum because of the damp pokey houses and their bungaroosh walls. Albion Hill was lucky to be there at all after some bombs were dropped nearby in the second world war.
    The area began its revival in the late 70s and early 1980s when many people bought up these city centre houses and began to renovate them. At that time, we could still run across the road in our pyjamas and get a jug filled with ale from the Montreal Arms – such was our student life in cheap and cheerful Hanover back then.
    Most of the original Hanover shops and pubs may have been lost but we do treasure those that remain despite change of usage. The community vibe in the area is still strong because with such densely packed housing you can’t but help talk to your neighbours.

    • Tom K Reply

      Thanks for that, a lovely response to the article.

      • Doddy Reply

        He rents his other properties out via airbnb…

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