Can you help Charlton’s White Swan fly?

White Swan disposal notice in Greenwich Time

A notice in this week’s Greenwich Time indicates that the White Swan’s current owners wish to sell the pub. The White Swan was listed as an Asset of Community Value after a successful campaign by the Charlton Society earlier this year; any community groups interested in bidding for the pub now have until 4th November 2014 to register their request to be treated as a potential bidder. Written confirmation should be sent by email to or by mail to the address listed in the notice above.

White Swan, 15 February 2014

We’re very keen to know if there are any groups with serious interests in bidding – or people interested in forming a group to make a bid. Let us know in the comments below – and let’s hope Charlton doesn’t lose another pub to the property developers.

(PS. Thanks to @TheCharltonSoc for drawing our attention to this on Twitter.)


38 thoughts on “Can you help Charlton’s White Swan fly?

  1. Mr_Chas October 16, 2014 / 11:38

    The White Swan has been listed on the web as ‘for sale’ for at least the last 9 months. They had their ‘open day’ for potential buyers in about May when at least 6 groups went to view. My instincts tell me that the agent has now found a buyer with funding in place and wishes to finalise the sale.

  2. Paul C October 16, 2014 / 12:51

    So is there no information available about who these mystery buyers are? Or more to the point, if they wish to buy the Swan as a pub or turn it into flats?

    Personally I’d love to see (and be part) of a community group that combined to buy the pub, but from what I remember the price Punch wanted was around 950K (their value on the pub as flats, not as a pub) and I can’t see a community group raising that sort of cash on what would be a risky venture.

    • Mr_Chas October 16, 2014 / 13:31

      There were all sorts at the ‘open day’ . A couple of groups of suits, a big cheese from Antic, one or two seeming publicans, a representative of a small chain of gastro pubs from North London whose name i forget. My friends in the trade reckon 600k – 700k is more realistic price as the pub needs a new, much bigger, kitchen, situated in a different place, and upstairs is little more than the shell of a few ( ensuite ) bedrooms. The frontage also needs updating ( they said )

  3. Spoontaneous October 16, 2014 / 16:49

    How about letting Antic London know about it? It would be really good to have a pub that serves nice food. I’m sick of cooking and nowhere to go!! 🙂

  4. Paul C October 17, 2014 / 10:10

    Seems to me that without any knowledge of who may be buying the site the likelihood of a community group getting together is hamstrung. People aren’t going to club together in a massive fund-raising initiative if there is a chance that the Swan is being bought by someone who will make a go of it as the pub we know it could be. Equally, without knowing for sure that dastardly developers are planning to go ahead with flats (with a chemist and a bookies underneath) there is unlikely to be sufficient community motivation to save the place. Don’t the council have any leeway here in terms of finding out the plans for the place? Wouldn’t the council still have to rubberstamp plans to turn it into flats, or is it a done deal?

    • Mr_Chas October 17, 2014 / 10:44

      My friends from the licensed trade, with whom i went to the ‘open day’, informed me as follows. If the purchaser wishes to change the use of the building he will have to apply to the council for permission to do so after he has made the purchase. He is therefore taking a gamble that he will succeed. He may try to find out, off the record, how the land lies with the council. I would like to think that their opinion is correct, but i do not know for certain. The ‘suits’ who were there had all the hallmarks of being property developers, but who knows.

      • DINGRAM October 23, 2014 / 19:25

        MrChas. Developers do not have to own a building in order to make a planning application, anyone can do that, at any time (nearly), as long as they let the freehold owner know. This is known as doing a deal ‘subject to planning’.

  5. Peter Cordwell October 19, 2014 / 08:59

    Are any of the local councillors involved, any cabinet members, any campaign at all? What about the Belgian bloke down the road, anyone thought of asking him? What was behind the demise of The Valley pub? November 4 seems a bit tight, to say the least. Love to help (my mother-in-law used to be the star of the women’s darts team) but not promising.

  6. fahy October 19, 2014 / 14:06

    We all knew that the clock was ticking once the Asset of Community Value was agreed by the Council. Same issues for the Dutch House. Action should have been taken from day one to get some structures in place through the mechanism of Community Membership,same model as the Coop. Urgent need to find out the value of the building which I suspect will be residential or a church. Time for action is now. Let’s get a meeting together this week to brainstorm. Need some key players involved.

  7. Emma Wheatley October 19, 2014 / 21:09

    Keen to be involved in a meeting.

    • Paul C October 19, 2014 / 21:58

      Same here. What ‘key players’ did you have in mind John?

      To get the ball rolling, how about an initial meeting this Thursday in The Swan?

    • Mr_Chas October 19, 2014 / 22:11

      Go Emma !

  8. Neil C October 20, 2014 / 11:42

    Maybe worth reiterating that the Nov 4th deadline is to register to be “treated as a potential bidder”, not the deadline for making a bid. It’s not clear, however, how much detail is required to be considered as a serious potential bidder.

  9. Paul C October 20, 2014 / 17:06

    I’ve heard back from Councillor Fahy (via the wonders of Twitter – @cllrjfahy) and he can make a meeting this Thursday at the Swan. Will be great to pick his brains on various options. I’ve suggested 8pm and it’s obviously an open invite to absolutely anyone who is interested in joining in the conversation.

    In case it’s helpful, some topics I imagine need discussing are (1) as John already said, what people know of the current plans for the Swan (and if nothing how can we find some details out). (2) more info on the coop community membership model (3) Neils point about what is required to qualify as a ‘proper’ bidder and (4) just how much interest is there in the community as a whole in banding together to attempt something with regards to keeping the Swan as a pub.

    • Mr_Chas October 20, 2014 / 17:24

      May I take 8pm Thursday as firm ? If so i’ll email the Charlton Parkside Community Hub with details.

      • Emma Wheatlet October 20, 2014 / 17:41

        Are you still in touch with Mark Dodds from the Peoples Pub Partnership? I’m no longer a member of the Facebook group from earlier in the year but it’s probably worth seeing if he can attend – he would have most knowledge on what would be required from a community group.

        • Mr_Chas October 20, 2014 / 18:05

          I am, Emma. I shall ask him.

    • ThePirateKing October 20, 2014 / 18:43

      Paul – Really good that Councillor Fahy will be there on Thursday. Any word from any of the three Charlton Ward councillors? I would have asked them about the Swan at the Charlton Society AGM on Saturday but sadly none of them came along to the meeting of their local society.

      • Mr_Chas October 20, 2014 / 18:46

        I will encourage Councillor Barwick to attend….

      • Paul C October 20, 2014 / 19:11

        Have emailed the 3 Charlton councillors with details of the meeting.

        • Mr_Chas October 20, 2014 / 19:42

          How about trying to get Viscount Gough involved ?

  10. Paul C October 20, 2014 / 17:57

    Let’s take 8pm as confirmed (there will never be a time that suits everyone and 8pm seems to suits most people so far).

    • Mr_Chas October 20, 2014 / 18:29

      May i presume that someone from Hop Stuff Brewery will be present on Thursday Emma ?

      • Emma Wheatley October 20, 2014 / 18:30

        Yes, we’ll be there.

  11. ThePirateKing October 20, 2014 / 18:40

    I’ll make sure Mark Dodds knows about the meeting. And I’ll chase estate agent Fleurets again to try and find out what’s happening. When I spoke to the rep handling the White Swan last week he was playing his cards very close to his chest and would only say that they had had bids, “but none that reached the asking price.”

  12. Mr_Chas October 20, 2014 / 20:28

    * Highfives* Mr Pirate King ! ( fistbump )

  13. Paul C October 24, 2014 / 12:21

    Just thought I’d quickly report back on my recollections of last night’s meeting for the benefit of those who couldn’t attend. Bear in mind this meeting was in a pub, so my recollections aren’t 100%.

    The meeting was well attended, around 20 at the beginning and a few more drifting in later, including a few bemused regulars. John Fahy did a good job of chairing. John had invited Claire Pritchard from the Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency (GDCA) and she had lots of good information regarding how a community group (along coop lines) could be setup and what it could look like. Claire collected email addresses of interested people and will be carrying out work looking at the feasibility of a cooperatively run White Swan. Claire also spoke of GDCAs work with The Ivy House in Nunhead (and elsewhere) and drew on that to talk about how a rejuvenated Swan would work best as a community hub, not purely as a boozer.

    There was concern from the managers of The Bugle that there simply wasn’t room in Charlton Village for two pubs but others at the meeting felt that a thriving Swan would not only be good for Charlton but would be good for the Bugle as well, making Charlton Village more of a destination then it is at present.

    There was talk of an Article 4 which places restrictions on planning permission and ‘Change of Use’ requests. My understanding is that an Article 4 doesn’t prevent a pub being turned into flats or something else but it puts obstacles in the way of that happening. For instance it forces sellers to demonstrate that an attempt has been made to viably run the pub as a pub for at least 2 years. It was unclear to me whether or not Punch Taverns (the owners) could point to the last god knows how many years of the Swans existence as proof that it wasn’t working or whether they would need to give an interested party another chance to do so first. Carol Kenna, chair of the Charlton Society, was also in attendance and I believe she and the Society are looking into the Article 4 issue on behalf of the meeting.

    There were two or three other people or parties represented who expressed an interest in both ‘saving’ the Swan and running it in the future and that was also promising, clearly a lot of people can see the potential in the Swan. Personally I was pleased to see Hopstuff Brewery represented and they seemed keen to be involved if possible in whatever happens next.

    What does happen next is not exactly clear. John called for another meeting in a couple of weeks time once GDCA had done their work on feasibility and how to take the community cooperative idea forward. The Charlton Society seem the only group locally who would be able to trigger the 6 month moratorium on a sale before the November 4th deadline. I would think the Society can only do that if they are sure a credible bid can be forthcoming. Whether or not they, or anyone else, can be sure of that before November 4th I don’t know.

    • Mr_Chas October 24, 2014 / 12:51

      That sounds pretty spot on to me Paul. Here are my recollections and personal views, which put more flesh on the bones of who some of the attendees are/represent . It’s from the Bring a Great British Pub to Charlton Facebook page. I urge all interested parties to join this group.

      Here is a debrief of the public meeting that was held in The White Swan tonight.
      Firstly I would like to salute the Charlton Society ( Paul Chapman) for organising the meeting and Councillor John Fahy ( Deputy Leader of the Council ) for proposing and chairing it.
      On the downside I must point out to you that this group has 188 members. How many of you actually attended the meeting. 4 ? 5 ? If you want The White Swan to burst into life as the community hub we know it can be it will not happen if you stay at home in your living rooms expecting other people to do the leg work. You need to TURN UP and show your support !
      On the plus side the quality and mix of those who actually attended the meeting and support the project was terrific.
      Cllr John Fahy ( Royal Greenwich Council )
      Carol Kenna – the new Chair of the Charlton Society
      The landlady of The Bugle Horn
      Dale Ingram of Planning for Pubs ltd
      J Mark Dodds of the The People’s Pub Partnership
      James & Emma of Hop Stuff Brewery
      Andrew Large of CAMRA
      Clare Pritchard of Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency
      The former / locked out, licencees of The Old Loyal Britons in Greenwich
      Vito Marino , former licensee of The White Swan
      4 or 5 local residents
      Time is running out and another meeting will take place in the next 14 days. If you want this project to actually come to fruition I urge you to attend.
      The date will be announced on this page.
      Christopher aka @mr_chas

    • Mr_Chas October 24, 2014 / 12:54

      Here are Andrew Large, SE London CAMRA, ‘s views on Article 4 from the FB thread

      Andrew Large Just to follow up on what I was saying at the meeting. Greenwich has be very robust pub protection policy which was only recently formally adopted but is practice has been guiding decisions for quite some time as it is supported at a national level too.
      13 hrs · Like · Reply

      Andrew Large Policy EA(b) Pubs
      The Council supports the retention of pubs that have a community role and will resist the change of use or demolition except where continued use as a pub is no longer economically viable. Evidence must be submitted to clearly demonstrate that reasonable attempts have been made to actively market the site as a pub for at least two years.

      4.2.31 Where permission is required for the change of use or demolition of a pub, this policy seeks to ensure that those pubs which play a role within the local community are retained. Pubs are a long established part of community life and can play an important social role offering residents a meeting place for food, drink, entertainment and functions.

      4.2.32 The architecture of a pub is often distinctive and over time these buildings have become important local landmarks and heritage assets. Many of the buildings are statutorily or locally listed for their architectural and historic value (refer to policies DH(i) and DH(j)).

      4.2.33 Where pubs are no longer economically viable or do not provide an important community function, alternative uses of the site will be acceptable. Evidence will need to be submitted and this should include evidence of the appointment of a property consultant/ estate agent to handle the marketing of the property and records of where and how the property has been marketed. Applicants should also carry out an assessment of the needs of the local community or community facilities to show that the pub is no longer needed and that alternative provision is available. Regard will be had to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) public house viability test.
      13 hrs · Unlike · 1 · Reply

      Christopher Seaden Your ‘ like ‘ is appreciated, Emma Wheatley To get projects moving requires plain speaking in my experience……onwards !
      13 hrs · Like · 2 · Reply

      Andrew Large I have checked and there is no Article 4 Directive in place in the Charlton Village conservation area

  14. Paul C October 24, 2014 / 12:55

    Cheers Chris, and thanks for the namecheck on your post. Just to be clear I was at the meeting purely as a local resident. I am a member of Charlton Soc but not a committee member (in fact, that reminds me, I’ve not even paid my £10 for this years membership yet!)

    • Mr_Chas October 24, 2014 / 13:08

      Paul, I have added your clarification to the bottom of the Facebook thread. Carol Kenna ( Chair ) officially represented the Charlton Society at the meeting.

  15. ThePirateKing November 1, 2014 / 00:26

    UPDATE: The Charlton Society has asked the council to be treated as a potential bidder, meaning that the six month “no sale” period is now triggered. This means that community groups and other interested parties now have six months to put forward their business plans to save the Swan. There will be another meeting at the Swan in the next few weeks to discuss how to take this forward. Details will be posted on this website.

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