Mayor Sadiq Khan has backed a campaign to protect a south London pub from redevelopment. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is seeking protection to ensure it continues as a focal point for the capital’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT+) community.
Interest group RVT Future has been asking anyone with evidence of the venue’s use for LGBT performance to contact Lambeth Council, to help to strengthen their application to designate the property under a sui generis use class. A planning application has been submitted to Lambeth and is the pinnacle of a long-running campaign to protect the venue from being lost by the community.
A sui generis designation would give the property greater protection than its designation as a pub, under which permitted development rights could see the building converted to residential. The aim would then be to protect the building in its current use, under agent of change principles, preventing it from being restricted by other new development – such as residential – nearby.
The property was grade II listed in 2015, becoming the first property to be listed in part because of its LGBT heritage.
The building was long owned by a gay businessman, but was sold in 2014 to Austrian investors Immovate. While Immovate has not revealed its plans for the property, the company does undertake residential conversions of heritage properties in European cities, and does not appear to have any interest in running pub venues.
Ultimately, RVT Future would like to get to a position where it could purchase the venue from the current owners, to ensure it retains its use.
“Protecting London’s LGBT+ venues is an integral part of my plans to grow London’s cultural sector – one of my core priorities as mayor,” said Khan. “For more than half a century, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been an icon of LGBT+ performance, helping members of an often vulnerable community to take pride in their identity, and enriching London as a whole.
“The recent tragedy in Orlando is a terrible reminder that the struggle for acceptance amongst the LGBT+ community is ongoing. And London’s response to the tragedy, where communities congregated in and around LGBT+ venues to show their solidarity demonstrates how crucial venues like the Royal Vauxhall Tavern are to the city’s social and cultural infrastructure. I commend RVT Future for the work they’ve done in their campaign to date and I urge Lambeth Council to do everything it can to help the Tavern to continue to thrive as an LGBT+ destination.”
Amy Lamé, Chair of RVT Future added: “The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is irreplaceable. We’re thrilled to have Sadiq’s support and we urge any other friends of the RVT to submit evidence to the council. This will help us resist the property developers and, we hope, eventually bring the RVT into community ownership.”
LPA Perspective: With submissions in, it is now down to the local authority to consider a shift in use class, to protect the pub from a residential conversion, which otherwise seems likely. That change in use is the only alternative to ownership by a sympathetic landlord, something that seems to have been the case previously, until the most recent owners bought the property.
And should the owners see their opportunity for a residential project evaporate, there would be sense in them selling it on to a community group, who will have an interest in maintaining the venue to serve its current, apparently dedicated bunch of supporters.
Time for a crowdfunded property acquisition?