Haggerston’s Acorn pub is to be demolished, despite protests from the Hackney Society and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), as well as “resistance” from the Town Hall itself.
Councillors found themselves powerless to challenge a decision by the Planning Inspectorate which trumped the original choice to block the demolition, with the early Victorian pub now set to be replaced with private flats and an attached bar.
Last week’s planning committee found itself unable to examine the issue of the loss of a locally listed building, but simply on whether the planning permission could be slightly varied on such minor matters as rearranged windows and bike storage.
Council officers said: “We resisted the demolition and felt the building should be retained, but the Planning Inspector took a very different view.
“Their assessment was that the building was of very limited heritage value. We had identified the building as a non-designated heritage asset and the inspector disagreed with that.
“We don’t have any leverage now in terms of the loss of the building.”
In the end, councillors were not even there to decide on the loss of an asset of local heritage, but simply on whether the planning permission should be varied to allow minor changes with the upcoming scheme.
Cllr Katie Hanson (Lab, Victoria), chaired the committee in place of Cllr Vincent Stops (Lab, Hackney Central), who had to wait outside for the decision due to his interest as a member of CAMRA.
Cllr Hanson said: “The inspector has given it planning permission. That exists, we’re just being asked to vary that slightly. We’re not agreeing to demolish, that’s sort of been decided already. They could demolish it tomorrow.”
The Acorn, which shut in September 2016, dates back to 1839, and is one of the few buildings in the area to have survived the Second World War.
It is thought to have been a watering hole for workers on Regents Canal and the gas works on the site of Haggerston Park which was destroyed in the Blitz.
The Hackney Society has warned that the building has “sufficient architectural, aesthetic, communal and evidential value that its demolition would cause significant harm to the immediate and wider environment”.
The Planning Inspector argued that the addition of modern windows and extensions has “diluted the integrity” of the building, though Hackney Society pointed out in addition that the relatively simple reversal of these changes has not been considered.
A Planning Inspector report said: “There is no evidence that the building was designed by a well known architect. The council have not placed the building on a local list of buildings of special or architectural and historic interest in the borough.
“I appreciate that the appearance of the frontage to the main junction is not unpleasant and that the age of the cellars supports the building being early Victorian.
“The integrity of the building has been diluted with the extensions and use of modern windows and other additions. Furthermore, I agree that the overall appearance of the building is cluttered.
“In addition I have no substantive information that would back up the council’s assertion that there is any social significance. Taken together these elements reduce the significance of the building.”