Last night Wandsworth Council met to decide the fate of the save The Wheatsheaf campaign. Since the start of the summer, campaigners have been calling on Wandsworth Council to use planning law to save the Tooting Bec pub. With the public gallery packed with local residents and campaigners, Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan, convinced the councillors to take action - but they stopped short of saving the pub now.
Since July more than 9,000 people have signed an online petition, as many as 1500 have signed Sadiq Khan MP’s letter to Wandsworth Council, all calling on elected councillors to use the powers they have to save the pub by granting an ‘Article 4 Direction’.
As part of the fight, campaigners have succeeded in getting The Wheatsheaf locally listed and made an Asset of Community Value (ACV) - but neither of these are enough to save the pub from developers alone.
Ahead of the meeting, local campaigners were disappointed to see that the Council report did not recommend granting an Article 4 Direction. When Sadiq Khan addressed councillors at the meeting on behalf of local residents, he argued this wasn’t good enough - and called for the Council to grant the much-needed Article 4 Direction there and then.
Although councillors partially listened to Sadiq, and have recommended an Article 4 Direction be granted, they chose not to step up and back the call for an ‘immediate’ Direction. Instead there will now be a period of local consultation - and the Council have until November 2015 to confirm the direction. If the Council are willing to take action however, this could be confirmed as early as January 2013.
Sadiq will be working with local residents to push for Council action sooner, rather than later. Until the Direction is in place, The Wheatsheaf is still under threat.
Sadiq Khan MP said:
“I’m relieved that we were able to convince the Council to recommend an Article 4 direction be granted. However - the Council had the chance to save The Wheatsheaf last night, and they bottled it. Instead they have delayed the process, which in the meantime leaves our much-loved pub in danger of being converted into a Tesco or a Sainsbury’s, or luxury flats at a moment’s notice.
“I spoke at length at last night’s Council meeting, on behalf of the 1,500 people who signed my letter to the Council. I called on the Council to listen to the community, to the people who use and love the The Wheatsheaf, and although we have made some progress, the Council decision fell short of what we wanted.
“Make no mistake about it, Councillors had the opportunity to save the pub last night, but they didn’t and the threat still looms large for the pub. The Council must not be allowed to drag their feet, and so I will be working closely with local residents and campaigners to push the Council to take action sooner, rather than later.
“There was another small victory in that the Council acknowledged that more needs to be done to protect pubs across the borough, and agreed to ask officers to explore measures to address this. So perhaps the future could be bright for pubs in years to come - but for now, The Wheatsheaf’s future remains uncertain.”
Save the Wheatsheaf campaigner, Chris McQuiggin said:
"The case that we put to the Council was very thorough, informed and well-argued. Our MP called for action now to save The Wheatsheaf, but it seems the councillors weren’t bold enough to take the decision to protect our pub now.
“In light of the huge public support and the backing that this campaign has received, I don't know why we need to wait any longer to save our pub, especially when it's still under threat.”