Battle over mega mansion plans for Clifton Hotel in St John’s Wood continues

Plans to turn the London pub where Edward VII wooed actress Lillie Langtry into a private mansion are expected to be derailed this week after an uproar from neighbours.
The fate of London’s pubs is a hot topic, as local campaigners and councils try to work out how to preserve these community amenities - while coming under pressure from developers keen to make the most of high house prices and relaxed planning rules on changing the use of commercial buildings to residential. 

A developer submitted plans to turn the Clifton Hotel in St John’s Wood into a mega mansion but many local residents signed petitions calling for the pub to be saved. “It would be shameful to lose it. We do not need more multimillion-pound homes or another oligarch’s lair,” said one local. And Westminster council planners appear set to agree.

A report on the scheme, which will be considered by the planning committee this week, recommends that the owner of the pub be prevented from turning the building into a five-bedroom house with a basement extension featuring a gym, media room and wine cellar, plus two kitchens and a split-level garden.

The Clifton Hotel closed in 2013 and was sold to investor Kay Ian Ng for £3.2 million. His business partner, Gordon Lewis, said: “The Clifton Hotel was a nice pub but it was not a viable business. After marketing the pub for 18 months there were no creditable offers. People who live on Clifton Hill do not want a pub or any business there. Pub closures are an emotional issue – but this situation is not as easy as it sounds.”
 
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Lillie Langtry

A spokesman for Camra, the campaign for real ale, said: “Our records indicate that the Clifton is around 200 years old and was believed to have been used by Edward VII to meet Lillie Langtry, reportedly changing its name to ‘hotel’ as royalty could not visit pubs. 

“A pub is part of the glue that holds a community together. Its loss would disenfranchise the local people who use it and would diminish the attractiveness of the area.”

Westminster council fielded 171 objections from residents keen to save their local. However a 42-name petition backed its redevelopment, claiming the pub caused noise and parking problems in a quiet street.

This summer the council ordered another developer to rebuild the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale brick by brick after it was demolished in April. 

And Wandsworth council recently took steps to protect 121 pubs across the borough, preventing their owners from demolishing or converting them without first obtaining planning consent. 

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