The Squirrel: Maida Vale pub set to be replaced by pharmacy as Westminster Council rules boozer ‘unviable’ after Covid-19
- Credit: Archant
A hard-fought community campaign to save the Squirrel has been dealt a hammer blow after the Maida Vale pub was deemed no longer viable due to Covid-19.
Westminster Council’s planning sub-committee approved a scheme to transform the Squirrel into a pharmacy on Tuesday, after an independent report said the pandemic meant it was unlikely to succeed as a pub.
The vacant free house on the corner of Chippenham Road and Elgin Avenue, which ran from 1880 until 2018, has been the subject of numerous rejected planning applications.
Westminster Council said the latest, from Pitchkins & Currans, could not be “reasonably refused”, paving the way for the pharmacy to upsize to a larger premises opposite its current base in Elgin Avenue.
Local resident Brenda Meadows, 88, earlier told the committee the pub’s loss would be a “tragedy”.
She added: “Loneliness and isolation is getting worse and as we come out of the pandemic it would be even more important having a place like the Squirrel.”
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Maida Vale councillor Geoff Barraclough (Labour), who said the pub “could be a very valuable community asset”, was the only committee member to vote against the plan.
Tim Roca, a Harrow Road councillor (Labour) who has long battled to save the Squirrel, tweeted after the decision: “Westminster planning committee approved the loss of the Squirrel pub tonight.
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“Mainly because of a report that said Covid has made the pub unviable. Let that sink in.
“On that basis all pubs in Britain are unviable. Unbelievable.”
A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “Our pubs and restaurants are the heart of our neighbourhoods and we sympathise with the community’s attachment to The Squirrel.
“The council has previously turned down a number of applications to convert this pub into flats in the hope that the property could operate as a pub once again.
“However, a recent independent viability assessment has demonstrated that a pub is no longer viable on the site.
“The property has been vacant for more than two years and has received no firm offers from pub operators, and we cannot reasonably refuse this latest application for use as a community pharmacy which now meets the council’s planning policy.”
READ MORE: The Squirrel: Maida Vale pub saved again but still empty after Westminster rebuffs latest pharmacy plansREAD MORE: The Squirrel pub: Westminster block redevelopment, but owner says community ‘didn’t use’ Maida Vale boozer