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Press Release

29/08/2023

Enfield Council’s approach to pub protection branded ‘troubling’ by campaigners

Following the Crooked House case, investigation by grassroots campaigners from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reveals a troubling approach to pub protection. 

In the wake of the tragic loss of the Crooked House, Himley, national attention is firmly on councils’ role in protecting pubs, and how they take enforcement action when others flout planning rules.

Now a spotlight is being cast further afield on the actions of pub owners and councils across the UK. In the case of The Picture Palace, owner and council are one and the same, as Enfield Council has ruled that the pub can be used as a restaurant, despite establishing that the use of the building is a pub with food provision, and being the freehold owners of the property.

Once a thriving community hub, no planning permission has been granted to change the use of the site from a pub to a restaurant. Enfield Council has opted instead to declare the new use lawful.

Commenting on the actions of the Council, CAMRA’s Regional Director for London, Ellie Eames said:

“Public houses are a vital part of local life and the Picture Palace was a wonderful example of a place at the heart of the community where people could come together to socialise.

“This irreplaceable social value is part of why pubs are protected by national planning regulations and the Local Plan approved by Enfield Council itself. It is troubling that the Council appears unconcerned about the potential use of the Picture House as a restaurant, without a full change of use application, especially when they are the freehold owners.”

A first stage complaint made by the CAMRA branch has not been upheld, with Enfield stating that its ownership has no bearing on planning or enforcement functions.

Despite the venue boasting architectural features from its days as a cinema, and much-loved murals of Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, it remains unclear what will become of the venue ‘s interior, and whether it will be affected by the potential need to demolish a side extension for which retrospective planning is currently being considered following its unauthorised construction.

Commenting, CAMRA’s director of Pub and Club Campaigns, Gary Timmins said: “While councils such as South Staffordshire have committed to being proactive about using all pub protection policies available to them in the face of the high-profile loss of the Crooked House, others should not intervene in the fate of pubs without consulting local communities.

“Our most recent pub closure data suggested that up to a third of pub losses may be unauthorised, meaning a pub like the Crooked House or the Picture Palace could be being converted every six days without relevant permissions.

“This tragedy plays out across the nation and CAMRA wants to see stronger national rules that require local authorities to take enforcement action where pubs are unlawfully converted or demolished.”

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Notes to editors:

The full response to Enfield & Barnet CAMRA’s first stage corporate complaint is appended.

First Stage Complaint – Picture Palace, Enfield

I write further to your complaint ref 6th February 2023 in respect of the Picture Palace, 128 High Street, Ponders End.

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. This is due to the high volume of correspondence we received and competing priorities within the service. I acknowledge that this is not the standard of service you should expect and offer my sincere apologies for any frustration or inconvenience this may have caused you.

Your complaint is that

i) a planning application has been submitted but not determined for the change of use from public house to restaurant.

ii) a side extension has been constructed which does not have planning permission.

iii) the Council as freeholder should be acting to ensure unlawful development is regularised

As remedy, you have indicated you would like us to:

1) Provide an acknowledgement letter with a case reference for the planning enforcement investigation with the Case Officer and standards of service, i.e., when to expect a decision.

2) Acknowledge that there is an unauthorised side extension and advise what the Council plans to do about it, i.e., will it issue a planning enforcement notice.

3) Provide information about whether the Developer is in breach of its lease regarding not having Freeholder Consent and whether legal action will be taken. If so, what.

i) A planning application has been submitted but not determined for the change of use from public house to restaurant. 

A planning application (ref: 22/03068/CEU) was submitted to establish the use of premises as Pub (Sui Generis and Use Class E(b) including the sale of food and drink for consumption (mostly) on the premises). After consideration, this use of the premises was confirmed as lawful, and the Certificate issued on 10th November 2022. Planning permission is therefore not required unless the use of the premises does not accord with eh provisions of the Certificate granted by the Council.

A previous application submitted under ref: 21/04071/FUL for change of use from public house (sui generis) to restaurant (Class E(b)) was withdrawn by the Applicant prior to determination.

ii) A side extension has been constructed which does not have planning permission.

A part retrospective application has been submitted for the enlargement of external seating and smoking area at rear with retention and completion of canopy over, single storey rear infill extension and 1st floor new enclosure to existing extraction plants under ref:23/00960/FUL). We are currently working closely with internal consultees to ensure all aspects of the application are fully reviewed. This application is under consideration and no decision has yet been made.

The situation has been subject to an enforcement investigation (ref: ENF/23/0112) but no further action will be considered until the aforementioned planning application is determined. However, if planning permission is refused for the extension, we will look to serve an enforcement notice.

iii) the Council as freeholder should be acting to ensure unlawful development is regularised

The freehold is owned by the Council and while this does not have any bearing on our planning or enforcement functions, we have raised this with colleagues in Property.

Conclusion

I trust my comments are of assistance. We acknowledge the extension to the public house does not have planning permission but before any enforcement action can be considered. We will also be raising this matter with the Council’s Property team in terms of any consents that are necessary, but I also assume that will be dependent on the outcome of the planning application.

At present, there is unfortunately no timescale for the determination of the application which remains under consideration. We will, however, look to conclude this as quickly as possible.

While this case may not be progressing as quickly as you would like, I do not uphold your complaint. Please though accept my apologies for any frustration and the time and trouble taken in your complaint.

This concludes my investigation into your complaint at the first stage of the Council’s complaints procedure. If you are not satisfied with my response, you may ask for it to be considered at the final stage of the complaints procedure when it will be considered by a senior manager within the service. If you would like to progress your complaint to the final stage, please email placecomplaints@enfield.gov.uk stating the reasons why you are not satisfied with the response and the outcome you seek.

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