The Squirrel: Maida Vale pub saved again but still empty after Westminster rebuffs latest pharmacy plans
PUBLISHED: 16:56 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:01 09 March 2020
Owners of historic Maida Vale pub The Squirrel have had their redevelopment plans rejected for a second time in less than a year.
Freeholder The Cowell Group (TCG) had hoped to turn the empty pub into a pharmacy but its plans were refused by Westminster Council on March 4.
Westminster planning chief Deirdra Armsby said the pub's loss 'would be to the community's detriment' and that the pharmacy proposals 'would fail to preserve or enhance the setting of the neighbouring Maida Vale Conservation Area'.
Last summer, TCG tried to turn the free house in Chippenham Road into flats, but this was also rejected by Westminster after a community campaign was launched to save the pub.
The developer's latest attempt to break the impasse again failed to earn town hall approval or win over campaigners fighting to restore the boozer, which opened in 1881 but has now been closed for almost two years.
'There is more to a city and its communities than pounds, shillings and pence,' Harrow Road councillor Tim Roca said.
'They need places where people can come together, with its history of famous poets and musicians.
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'All we want is our pub back.'
TCG has lodged a planning appeal against the council's decision and Adrian Levy, TCG director, strongly defended the developer's intentions.
He said having tried but failed to find someone to take the pub on, TCG hoped that the proposed pharmacy would be represent a middle ground. He also said Currans Pharmacy in Elgin Avenue was to close.
'If the people campaigning had used the pub in the first place, then it would have been successful,' Mr Levy said.
'At least this way the community would still benefit from the site.'
Paul Chorlton, of Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), commended the fight to save The Squirrel, but highlighted the difficulty any restoration would face.
He said: 'Our CAMRA experience with closed pubs is that it then becomes difficult - but not impossible - to attract them back to a reopened site.
'It would certainly require an experienced wet-led operator to take it on and one has yet to come forward.'
Campaigners fighting to save the Squirrel will make make their case in front of a planning inspector later this month.