It has been brought to my attention by friends in Lewisham Cyclists, the borough group of the London Cycling Campaign, that there is a planning application which includes a proposal to convert the two floors above Catford Bridge Tavern into apartments, and the basement into retail storage. The ground floor will be turned into a shop once the residential conversions are complete, and a “national retailer” has expressed an interest in the proposed retail space.
There is a petition to Lewisham Council to reject the planning application, which was lodged by the building owners without first consulting the pub’s Antic Chain operators. This petition I have signed, even though it fails to make a detailed case against a proposal which, even if you do not adopt by default a “Save our pubs!” stance, raises serious issues about local land value inflation and community assets. Further information is available on the Londonist website.
Personally, I do tend to take a simple position in defence of local ale houses. Pubs I regard along with places of religious worship, community centres, public halls and the like as community assets beneficial if not essential to community cohesion and social action.
In addition to being a keen and socially responsible ale drinker, I make regular use of pubs as meeting places for the community groups with which I am involved. For example, cycling activists from Lewisham and neighbouring boroughs meet regularly in the finest pub in Lewisham – the Dog & Bell in Deptford – while Lewisham NUJ is engaged in an extended crawl of borough taverns.
People need physical spaces outside of their homes and workplaces: shared spaces for doing stuff together with fellow community members. With urban land values rocketing, community spaces are being squeezed out of existence and replaced with yet more retail spaces controlled by large corporations that so often do not have a stake in and contribute to the local community.
Community asset stripping has already done enormous damage to Lewisham, but there is much left in the borough that is worth conserving.