Greenwich councillors have backed plans to turn the closed Barclays Bank branch at Blackheath Standard into a bar and nanobrewery – despite objections from two local groups.
In March, The Charlton Champion revealed that Plumstead-based Common Rioters brewery wanted to turn the former bank, which closed in January, into a “beer café”, which would brew much of its own beer.
Planning officers recommended the proposal, pointing out that it would keep a valued building in use and allow a local business to expand in a town centre location.
The Greenwich area planning committee supported the plans tonight, although its outdoor seating was reduced to address concerns from local residents.
Neighbours either side of the building spoke of concerns about privacy, noise and drainage, and the owner of a house next door to the site of the bank’s old cash machine objected to plans to put seating and the bins close to his home, even though it would be shielded by a large trellis.
Both the Westcombe Society and the Blackheath Society submitted objections to the plan.
Ann Hill of the Westcombe Society told the committee at Woolwich Town Hall: “We do not object in principle to a microbrewery on this site but we object to the impact of the hospitality component on the occupants of number 43. Even with the trellis and planters tables will still be in close proximity to number 43, people will be sitting and moving around just 2.6 metres away until 9pm.”
Hill also objected to the scheme on the grounds of noise and claimed the proposal failed to meet planning policies because it would have “an adverse effect on noise and quality of life”.
Stephen O’Connor, who founded Common Rioters with his wife Maryann, said that he would be happy to move the bins and not have seating next to number 43 if it helped get the plans approved.
He explained that the brewery would be brewing up to 500 litres at a time, up to twice a week – compared with the 100,000-litre operation at Meantime in Greenwich.
He told the councillors: “We wanted to help bring quality beer and other local drinks to the people of SE London. We’ve found what we think will be our home and we want to enhance it and bring it to life.
“We’re not about selling cheap drinks – it’s about setting a realistic price so that suppliers in the chain, some of them will be local, will get a fair income. We use a lot of carefully-selected, locally-sourced suppliers and we hope to continue that.”
The Green Goddess has been operating as a pop-up bar at Charlton House since April and Maryann said that the “brilliant” experience had “really helped us decide the place we want to have at the bank”.
Councillors generally backed the scheme, although Geoff Brighty, the Blackheath Westcombe Conservative councillor in whose ward the bar will be in, said he would object if the outdoor seating by number 43 was not removed.
“I don’t particularly object to the change of use – it’s not going to be a boozing den by the sounds of it, but I do have real concerns about the use of that section of the forecourt,” he said.
Aidan Smith, Labour councillor for Greenwich West, quizzed one of the council’s planning officers, Neil Willey, on why he had opted against having two cycle parking spaces for bar customers. “I’ve been taught since year dot that you don’t drink or drive in a car, so why should you do that in a bicycle,” he said. Smith countered by pointing out that “a wet-led bar on Woolwich Road” – the River Ale House – had recently been given new cycle racks.
But Norman Adams, a Kidbrooke with Hornfair Labour councillor, said a bar would be an “unsuitable” use for a building that had previously only been in use during the day. “The other thing that worries me is rogue parking, they will come and park on double yellows, that gyratory comes under great pressure and I can’t see this proposal making that any better, in fact I can see it making it worse,” he said. Adams also questioned whether there was demand for another pub in the area, claiming that the Royal Standard and British Oak were not well used.
Chair of planning Stephen Brain said that the application was “tricky” in some respects because of the outdoor seating, but said the building was already in a busy location and that the success of the River Ale House showed such an approach could work.
“[At least] Wetherspoons haven’t grabbed it,” he said. “Equally, a bookmakers could take that straight away without coming to planning and we have far too many bookmakers in the area.”
Councillors backed the scheme in a number of individual votes after Greenwich West Labour councillor Pat Slattery said she could not support adding cycle racks for customers – an amendment to the plan which was also approved.
The proposed opening hours would be 10am to 11pm seven days a week, with a midnight closedown on Fridays and Saturdays in December, although a licensing committee is yet to hear final plans.
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