After finally deciding to launch a consultation on whether to use planning law to protect The Wheatsheaf pub – Wandsworth Council has decided to ignore the results of its own consultation, and has delayed any decision on saving the pub until later this year.
Last summer, thousands of people rallied around the campaign to save The Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting Bec, following rumours of a supermarket takeover. After securing assurances from Tesco and other supermarkets that they were not looking to buy the pub, Tooting MP Sadiq Khan wrote to Wandsworth Council asking them use planning law to protect the pub, in a letter that was co-signed by over 1500 local residents.
On 19th November last year, the council’s Planning Committee met to decide the fate of the pub. Rather than supporting the campaign’s call to take action there and grant an immediate ‘Article 4 direction’ against change of use, the councillors voted to draw-out the process by running a consultation, leaving the pub at risk. The decision was postponed until AFTER the local Council elections.
Following pressure from the campaign, the council was forced to stop stalling and began the consultation process earlier this year, which resulted in almost 500 extra responses from local residents. All of these were in favour of granting the Article 4 direction against change of use. At the committee meeting on 1st July Wheatsheaf supporters such as Labour’s Cllr Fleur Anderson, called for the council to make the direction there and then, given the strong support for it amongst the local community. However, rather than listen to the views of local residents, last night’s committee voted to delay action on saving the pub until later this year.
Until the change of use direction is granted, the pub remains at risk of a supermarket takeover or being turned into luxury flats.
Sadiq Khan MP said:
"We must not let the council pull the wool over local residents' eyes; they have had the opportunity to save the Wheatsheaf on more than one occasion, and continue to ignore the views of the local community. Rather than saving the pub at the committee meeting, they voted to put off the decision. It is clear the wishes of greedy developers are more important than concerned local residents. No wonder people are saying this is why they delayed this until after the Council elections.
"The Council's original excuse to delay granting an immediate Article 4 direction was that they wanted to consult local residents. Now that they have, rather than listen to the responses to their own consultation, they have ignored them. People will suspect this is because local residents were overwhelmingly in favour of making the direction. Which really begs the question, why carry out a consultation at all if there was no intention to listen to the results?
"Local residents will be pleased to know that Labour Cllr Fleur Anderson spoke up for them at the meeting and urged the council to stop delaying the decision. But people will be disappointed to know that now the local elections are over, this fell on deaf ears with the Tory-run council.
"Remarkably, despite the Article 4 direction having the support of thousands of people, it will not be considered by the council until later this year, and we still don't know if they will vote in favour if it! Meanwhile, the threat to the wheatsheaf still looms large."
Councillor Fleur Anderson said:
“Having been a member of the Save the Wheatsheaf campaign group since the beginning, this is really disappointing news from the council. The consultation has made clear the strength of feeling for protecting our much loved local. I urged the committee to listen to local residents and the consultation results and impose the direction without hesitation, but unfortunately I did not have the support of the majority of the committee. It just shows they do not listen to what local residents want.”
Save The Wheatsheaf campaigner Chris McQuiggin said:
“It is really disappointing that the council have once again ignored the campaign to save The Wheatsheaf. We have put forward a clear case – backed by thousands of residents – calling on the council to act now and use the powers they have to protect the pub.
“It seems the council are not on our side and not committed to protecting the Wheatsheaf.”