Decision on Wheatsheaf delayed after council fail to come to conclusion

Tooting residents have vowed to keep fighting to save an iconic Tooting Bec pub, after a decision to decide its fate was delayed indefinitely.

By Naomi Agius

Many were left disappointed after a Wandsworth Council planning committee on Tuesday July 1 failed to come to a definite conclusion on the future of the Wheatsheaf, with action delayed until later on in the year.

Its supporters, including Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, have taken to Twitter over the past few months as part of the #SavetheWheatsheaf campaign, to lobby the council to grant the pub an Article 4 direction and therefore full protection against demolition and change of use.

Though the council backed an Article 4 direction against demolition, this would still allow its owners, Enterprise Inns, free reign to change the use of the site as they saw fit.

New planning policies, to be published in September, that would offer the necessary protection for the pub, are not likely to come into force until next year, meaning the pub’s future remains unclear.

Mr Khan, who wrote to Wandsworth Council asking them to use planning law to protect the pub in a letter that was co-signed by over 1500 local residents, said that a threat to the Wheatsheaf still looms large.

“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,” he 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.

Councillor Fleur Anderson also expressed her disappointment at the planning committee’s failure to reach a decision.

“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.”

Chris McQuiggin, a Save the Wheatsheaf campaigner, from Earlsfield, said: “The Wheatsheaf is a fantastic venue, located right in the heart of Tooting. Due to the clear popularity of the Wheatsheaf, it seems that Wandsworth Council have really dropped the ball on this one and bottled making a proper decision.

He said that the council appears to be ignoring overwhelming public demand to save the pub, following increasing  pressure from residents and MP Sadiq Khan, who forced the council to launch a full consultation.

“The fight is not over and I know that everyone will be campaigning hard until we have an outright decision from the council.”

However, Dan Watkins, chairman of the Tooting Wheatsheaf Supporters, said he was pleased at progress made at the meeting last Tuesday.

“We received an Article 4 for demolition immediately and in principle, the Council approved an Article 4 direction for change of use so it is just a matter of time before it comes in.”

He said the campaign’s next step will be to push the council to bring in an Article 4 against change of use at the September meeting, with the campaign group set to meet at the Wheatsheaf this week to decide its plan of action.

Photo courtesy of Stacey Harris, with thanks. 
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