Save The Swan

Good heavens. Philip was, just two days ago,wishing there was an ‘emergency heritage button’ he could press to stop developers from demolishing the beautiful Swan pub in West Greenwich.

Well, good for him. He has decided that if something doesn’t exist, it needs to be invented. He and some pals have been tinkering in the shed and have come up with a prototype and he needs us to help road test it.

SAVE THE SWAN has been set up as a plucky pressure group with just days to get a review on this building.

Amazingly, Philip tells me the council are currently in the process of reviewing the “plans to demolish” and need to make a decision this week.

There is no time to waste. If you agree that Greenwich would be better off saving this beautiful building and developing around it instead, please write to object to the plans to demolish, by contacting the council’s development controller:

Explain that you object to application ref 14/0919/SD and oppose demolition because of the building’s architectural heritage.

You should provide your address so they can see you are a local. If you’re not local, please still write – beauty for visitors is important too.

Save The Swan

This is urgent stuff – so if you’re thinking about writing, please do it asap. It’s a slim chance, but it’s a chance to do something to keep Greenwich beautiful.

I wish Philip and his heritage-loving chums the very best of British.

While we’re about it, Philip and I have been discussing the fate of the Thames Pub in Norway St. I often mention it as I truly believe it could be Greenwich’s answer to the Dog & Bell. But it’s currently disintegrating into the ground while the new developments shoot up around it and we’re a bit worried.

It would be good not to have to do an emergency campaign on that one too. Anyone got any news about it? Does it need its own little band of watchful guardians?

the attachments to this post:

swan about to be demolished Philip moore
swan about to be demolished Philip moore

23 Comments to “Save The Swan”

  1. Janine Wilson says:


  2. Paul says:

    THanks for info. Done.

    Note that in their original application, the developers confirm that the building is not structurally unsound. They want to demolish because it’s cheaper.

  3. Paul says:

    Incidentally, there’s more info on the original application, ref 11/0848/F

    THis is where they confirm the buildings are structurally sound.

  4. Venus says:

    written today. Yes, Save The Swan!

  5. David m says:

    NIMBYism in action, while the inequality between those with property and those without who need new stuff built (on brownfield too!) grows ever deeper …

    Oh I know I’m being a spoil sport. It is a nice looking pub.

  6. Nathan says:

    Have also written today!

    Isn’t there someone still living upstairs in the Thames on Norway Street?

    Probaby one of those proerty guardian types but do often see some lights on upstairs when I come past on the bike at night. Agree it should be saved!

  7. Nathan says:

    ‘property’ guardians even..

  8. But David – aren’t they pulling it down to build shops, not housing?

  9. David m says:

    No it is for 11 flats. They are proposing retail on the ground floor (of 5) but that is only because council’s go for at sort of thing.

    It is a nice pub. Is anyone going to run a business in it though if it were to be saved?

  10. Adam says:

    From Councillor Matthew Pennycook in response to my email query:

    As a local resident as well as local councillor I’m incredibly proud of Greenwich’s heritage and always aim to balance local regeneration and the need for more homes with what makes the area a special place to live.

    The Swan Tavern (or, as some know it, the Miller’s Pub) has an unfortunate history having stood empty for more than two decades. During this period the owners of the building have shown no interest in renovating it and as a result the building has degraded over time.

    In July 2011 the developer applied for planning permission to demolish the building and construct a part4/part 5-storey building providing retail or commercial at ground floor level and 5×1-bed and 6×2-bed flats on the upper floors.

    Because of the sensitive nature of the site and to give the community a full opportunity to express their views about the proposals I asked for the decision to be made by Councillors in an open public meeting rather than by our planning officers under delegated powers. Over 300 local residents in the surrounding streets were notified of the application by letter and notification was also placed in the local press and by site notice. We received only three objections to the proposal. In the absence of significant community opposition and without strong planning grounds on which to refuse the application the committee voted in favour of authorisation. We did, however, insert conditions that require the developers to retain the masonry feature on the front of the building and the emblem and to incorporate these sympathetically into the new building.

    As it is less than three years since that decision to authorise the application the planning permission is still valid and we have no grounds on which to prevent the authorised work going ahead.

    I appreciate that a far greater number of residents than the three who took the time to object in 2011 are now unhappy about the demolition of this building and I intend to explore with our planning officers whether there are any steps that can be taken to modify the existing planning permission but I’m afraid that the July 2011 planning authorisation leaves us with little ability to reverse the prior decision.

  11. Jon says:

    I spoke on the telephone to one of the councillors yesterday. She gave very much the same view; having gone through the proper planning process, there is little opporunity to go back at this stage.

    Millers should accept their part of the blame here – they have closed the pub and seen it as a developemnt opportunity. The council apparantly made efforts to encourage its re-opening but they were uninterested.

    Without wanting to be defeatist, it is a done deal. The only way to reverse the decision would be (expensive) judicial review and a) I think the time limit for that may have passed, and b) proper grounds would need to be established to show the decision was somehow improper. It might be a poor decision but that alone is not sufficient for JR.

    The time to complain was 3 years ago. If nothing else, perhaps some good will come out of the Swan’s demise if it encourages people to engage with the planning process at an early stage. The Thames pub is an excellent example.

    My wife can’t stand me stopping to read every planning notice attached to local lamp posts but they are a critical element of the process and, as I tell her, if I don’t complain, no one will. (Despite threats, she hasn’t yet divorced me.)

  12. Jon says:

    PS I’m not saying it’s not worth a go – an email to your councillors costs nothing and miracles have happened!

  13. Paul says:

    I check the planning list every week… I missed this one, along with another horrible little house squeezed in opposite the Fishmonger’s. Not one person objected to the latter.

    My experience is that if you object, and get up to speak at the committee, it does make a huge difference. Simply writing to the planning officer, however, is likely to make no difference at all, as some of them like to wave things through for an easy life. I’ve challenged blatant untruths in applications, and had them ignored by officers – but the planning committee always do take account of such details.

    I suspect it might well be too late for The Swan… but it’s well worth putting some effort into The Thames, and working out what’s happening with it.

  14. Richard says:

    @Paul You are quite wrong the horrible little house across from the Fishmongers is actually a bomb shelter.

  15. Dear all,

    We now have a website, which we will be updating with news.

    We also made the front page of the Greenwich Town Mercury today!

    More on the site soon.

    p.s. we will be expanding to look at other pubs

  16. Hi Phantom, David — yes, the original information we got off the site foreman was a bit inaccurate.. they are going to cram 11 flats in there.

    David, we are not trying to be NIMBY here – we’ve got no problems with people building houses and making use of space… we are not against a sensitive conversion like the Old John Roan school (did you know that that was scheduled for demolition but saved by a local campaign?).

    We don’t mind people building in the area or moving to the area .. we just want to keep the area as good as it can be (for new and old residents alike!), and that means fighting to preserve outstanding features.

  17. Note, the conversion I refer to is the Old Roan School for Girls, on Devonshire Drive. Brilliantly done too.

  18. David says:

    The difficulty with Cllr. Pennycook’s response is that there are many more interested parties to the demolition of such buildings than just the residents in the surrounding streets… all of us who live in Greenwich, who care about heritage and the built environment, are stakeholders and interested parties in such matters …. moral of the story, let’s get more organised and mobilised and be on step ahead next time … the Blackheath Society would’ve been all over this if it happened in their backyard… what is there in Greenwich of equivalence; should we start a watchdog, of sorts?

  19. Paul says:

    There is the Greenwich Society, David, and the Greenwich Conservation Group, who are both very helpful (despite the former’s support of the Market Redevelopment under their previous chairman.)

    I am not certain our council is as zealous in its posting of notifications as they should be; for instance, there was no notice outside the Borough Hall for its major redevelopment that the council has now approved. The council was also extremely casual about actually posting the plans – strange, that.

    The only solution is to keep checking their website every week, and make sure you cc your objections to councillors.

  20. David says:

    Thanks for that Paul; anyone any news on the Swan and/or The Thames?

  21. Hi David,

    The Swan is still standing for now.

    The Thames still has 5 or 6 Camelot residents protecting it by occupation, so is safe for now (though we should not be complacent!).

    Check the Swan website for a summary of the communications with the Council. We can confirm that the ATA officially reasserted their position of support for saving the Swan again this morning too.

    We need everyone to write to the West Ward councillors and implore them to find a solution – technically they can extend the Ashburnham Conservation Area still, and there are probably powers they can use under the Localism Bill.

    Also, please do tell your neighbours, friends and family to join in – we do need everyone to push as hard as we can!

  22. RogerW says:

    I passed the place (The Swan) last night. The shop to the side is now gone but the pub is still there. Looking through the gaps in the screening revealed that there actually is a pretty big crack running up one of the remaining walls. More surprisingly, it also appeared there is fresh building work going on at the rear of the property??