Neighbours of a Brighton pub whose owner “vandalised” it by ripping off its distinctive green tiles say they now fear he will attempt to knock it down.
Millionaire property developer Charlie Southall got a team of friends to hack the locally listed tiles off the exterior of the Montreal Arms in Albion Hill, Hanover, on Tuesday morning, as he handed out leaflets claiming they were beyond repair.
After an outcry, the council stepped in and the following morning a stop notice was attached to the pub, requiring all work on the tiles to cease until April 27.
The council is now working on drafting an enforcement notice which neighbours hope will require him to restore the tiles.
And there are calls for a campaign to register it as an asset of community value, which adds another layer of protection to it.
Mr Southall’s shocking move came after doubts were raised over his motives in launching an £85,000 crowdfunder to renovate the building, which he said he wanted to “donate” to Ukranian refugees for three years.
Since pulling the plans last week, neighbours say he has been approaching them in the street and picking arguments.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “When I left the house on Tuesday, he walked down the street towards me and asked what my problem was.
“As he became more fractious he was saying I can do whatever I like with it and anyway, it’s not safe, the lintels are rotten through and it could come down at any time.
“The whole of the top of Hanover thinks that this is just a means to an end and he will say that the building is unsafe so he can demolish it.”
Ken Frost, who lives a few doors down from the pub, said: “I fear that the plan of action now by the owner will be to do as much damage as possible to the pub, as can be seen by the vandalism of removing the tiles and exposing the brickwork to the elements.
“I suspect further damage will be done in order to give him the means to declare it unsafe, and then tear it down.”
Mr Southall would require planning permission to demolish the pub, and it’s likely this would only be granted if he could prove it was structurally unsafe.
If he simply left the pub empty and it fell into disrepair, the council could issue a planning enforcement notice, but if this is appealed it could take months or years for it to be enforced.
An urgent works notice can only be served on a listed building. Brighton and Hove City Council served one on the Brighton Hippodrome in 2020, but only after it had been left derelict for many years.
The building is locally listed, but this only means that it can be taken into account when making decisions on planning applications.
It is unlikely that English Heritage would deem it important enough to be included in the national register of listed buildings.
Since news spread of the attack on the pub’s tiles, Mr Southall has deleted the Facebook account he used to drum up support for his crowdfunder – and to announce it was ending.
The email address he used at his video production company – Dragonfly Digital Video Services – now has an automatic response saying it is no longer active.
Brighton and Hove News has approached Dragonfly Digital Video Services, which issued the original press release about the pub and crowdfunder, for comment.