Pub owner loses appeal over conversion into flats

The Antelope in Leyton
The Antelope in Church Road, Leyton, was converted into residential flats without permission

Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

The owner of a landmark pub must reverse work done to turn the building into flats after losing an appeal against Waltham Forest Council.

Residents were horrified to see owners Tzvi Ltd convert The Antelope in Church Road, Leyton, into 14 studio flats and a shop. The council later ordered the company to reverse the changes – which were carried out without planning permission.

Tzvi Ltd appealed to the Planning Inspectorate in an attempt to overturn the decision and, in November last year, representatives for both the company and the council appeared at a hearing to decide the future of the historic building.

Tvzi Ltd representative Alvin Ormonde told planning inspector Richard Perrins the building was “not wanted” as a pub and said: “My client would let it as a pub tomorrow if somebody would come along to take it. I don’t believe it’s a viable pub given what’s in the area and what’s available.

“They had no interest [when they bought the building] of taking away the pub but it has been proven over the past six years that it’s not wanted.”

Council lawyer Melissa Murphy argued the inability of the previous tenant, who left in 2014, to pay the rent “does not mean that the business was not viable”. She said: “Your client has been admirably candid about the reason he bought the building… he thought it would be a good opportunity for redevelopment.

“It’s hardly surprising that nobody has contacted the owner [to run it as a pub] when it has not been actively marketed.”

This week the Planning Inspectorate announced its verdict, rejecting the appeal and directing the pub’s owners to reverse its conversion into flats. Planning inspector RJ Perrins wrote: “I do not accept that there was an attempted ‘campaign’ [by the owner] to save the pub. 

“On the evidence, that ‘campaign’ amounted to one tweet from a Twitter account with some 12 followers, with no subsequent responses; it carries no weight. 

“Local people… have an undisputed desire to investigate the possibilities of a community pub and do not want the community asset to be lost.”

Tzvi Ltd submitted a 109-page document arguing the pub could not profit but RJ Perrins felt a number of important factors were not considered by the author, who “is not an expert in the leisure industry”. 

He found the document did not consider the area’s transport links or the closure of competing businesses since 2014 and that some comparisons, including to a champagne bar, “were not helpful”. Furthermore, after visiting the building in person, he wrote the new flats were “cramped” and “unacceptable” as housing.

Residents Michelle Connolly and Curran McKay, who both spoke at the hearing, said they were “delighted” at the result. The Antelope closed in 2014 after trading for nearly 140 years and the pair launched a campaign last year to reopen it. They said: “It is a huge win, and the first step in a long journey to restore The Antelope to being a pub for all in the local area.”

Ciaran O’Shea told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Buildings like that are part of the charm of the area. It’s a beautiful, striking building in a prominent location.

“It has a connection to the local working class culture that has been the identity of the area for some time. Especially after Covid, the idea of having somewhere safe and close where people can get together is really needed.”

RJ Perrins also ruled that Tzvi Ltd must pay Waltham Forest Council back the money it spent defending the enforcement notices. The council was contacted for comment but has yet to respond.