Campaigners bid to stop 400-year-old Hackney pub from being turned into a house

The Albion, pictured in 2008. Photograph: Dr Neil Clifton / Geograph

Campaigners are trying to save a “historic” 400-year-old pub in Victoria Park from being turned into a private home.

The local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), has formally objected “to the proposed change of use of the Albion”.

A developer submitted a planning application on the 28 March 2024 to change the building’s use from a pub to a single residential house.

Campaigners claim the pub was sold “at a price exceeding its lawful planning use value, precluding interested pub operators from acquiring the historic site”.

CAMRA representative James Watson said: “Developers are exploiting the ‘trojan horse’ attack on pubs, whereby the building is partly converted into flats with a proposal, at least on the face of it, to retain pub use in the ground floor and basement.

He added that “such proposals are problematic in a number of ways”.

The Albion’s historical value, recognised by Hackney Council when it added it to its list of non-designated heritage assets in 1991, is CAMRA’s principal objection.

The pub is believed to be the oldest surviving one in the Victoria Park Conservation Area and can be traced back to the 1600s.

Located at 38 Lauriston Road, the building boasts Victorian and Georgian architecture.

But its doors have been closed to punters since the death of its then landlord and freeholder, Ronald Hague, in 2015.

Prior to his death, Hague had been calling last orders at The Albion for 31 years.

Former punter Adrian Frost said: “I used the Albion in the late 80s and early to mid 90s. I remember it fondly as a friendly, no-frills working-class boozer, which was nevertheless comfortable, well run and safe.

“Pete’s [another punter] late father Ron, of nearby Banbury House, recalled that when a 1,000-pound bomb fell on Church Crescent, demolishing a good few houses, and damaging scores of others [including St John of Jerusalem Church], the Albion escaped unscathed and was used as a distribution point for food for those whose homes had been destroyed or made uninhabitable.”

Watson said: “As a Hackney resident of some 15 years and a champion of community cohesion, I had hoped that the days of developers coming after Hackney’s pubs were behind us.

“Alas, the price of residential property puts all the spaces and places that we hold dear under threat.”

Watson was the campaign secretary for the ‘Save The Chesham’ group, who were victorious in blocking developers from turning a Homerton pub into flats back in 2015.

He is now hoping for a repeat of their success with The Albion.

“These are the pubs that really enhance the character and charm of Hackney,” he continued.

“These are the venues that are place-making.”

Victoria Ward councillor Penny Wrout is backing the campaign, telling the Citizen: “It’s always sad when a pub closes, and even sadder when it’s a rather lovely building like the Albion.”

Wrout said the sale of the pub “feels like putting the cart before the horse”.

She would like to see “a good open debate in planning committee about the pros and cons of any change of use”.

Hackney Council was approached for comment but did not respond.