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Big day for pubs is extra special for rebuilt Carlton Tavern

Six years after historic local was illegally demolished, the beer is flowing again

25 May, 2021 — By Richard Osley

Rebuilt brick by brick: the exterior of the Carlton Tavern with, from left, Ben Martin, Tom Rees and city council cabinet member Matthew Green

FOR pubs up and down the land, last Monday was a long-awaited day in the calendar, as publicans were finally able to invite customers to come in from the cold for a pint and a packet of crisps.

The softening of coronavirus rules has meant bars can now serve people inside again.

But for one pub, the moment was extra special. It wasn’t that long ago that the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale was a heap of rubble.

In a story that will be told and retold again, the historic 1920s pub has made a phoenix-like recovery from the ashes, a case which shows every now and again the punters can win a planning battle.

The much-loved bar was flattened illegally in 2015 but Westminster City Council refused to accept that it was too late to rectify the problem and demanded that it be rebuilt “brick by brick”.

No wonder then that cabinet councillor Matthew Green made it his first stop for a pint as the Covid-19 regulations were relaxed.

The shock demolition in April 2015

As he slurped on his drink, he said: “This is a momentous day for the Carlton Tavern and a victory for residents, local campaigners, and Westminster City Council.

“The council has been working towards reopening the Carlton Tavern since the day it was illegally knocked down and from today customers can enjoy its historic 1920s interior for the first time in six years.”

He added: “Not only is this pub incredibly popular with local residents but it plays an important role in our city’s heritage, being the only building in the street to survive the Blitz during the Second World War.

“The rebuilding of the pub sends a message of hope, but also serves as a warning to developers that Westminster City Council will not tolerate the kind of vandalism that led to its demolition in the first place.

“I am thrilled to see this popular local institution reopening its doors and thriving as a hub of the community once more.”

In business again: Cllr Matthew Green pulls a pint

Developers CLTX Ltd had demolished the pub without securing planning permission.

The demolition happened just as Historic England was considering awarding the pub a Grade II-listing.

The council then issued an enforcement notice to repair the damage.

CLTX appealed to the Planning Inspectorate but the order remained in place: the pub had to be rebuilt.

Planning officers have worked closely with the architects and builders to ensure the completion of the pub.

Ori Calif from CLTX later offered a lease to business partners Tom Rees and Ben Martin to run the pub again.

Mr Rees said before its reopening: “Ben and I are pub people, we love heritage pubs. We know modern pubs are not the same, and it’s really important to protect these assets.”

He added: “The modern pub has become much like a coffee shop, and also food-orientated.

“It’s also a place to sit and work with good wifi. I think during lockdown we’ve seen how people have realised that they took all that for granted.

“There is a path to commercial success, it’s up to a good operator to find what that is. If people want fish and chips, footy and cheap beers, ultimately we will need to move towards that.”

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