The Duke wins the first fight
The planning application for an extension and conversion of the upper floors was voted down by councillors on Tower Hamlets planning committee. The reasons they gave were that the design of the extension was too modern for the historic conservation area and unsympathetic to the Duke itself, that the loss of the garden would harm the long-term viability of the smaller pub unit left on the ground floor and there was some reserve about whether the pub use would resume at all if the development went ahead. There were also concerns about the living conditions for the new occupants of the flats above combined with a pub use. A formal decision to refuse consent is expected to be ratified at the next meeting of the committee in August. More than 30 of the pub's customers travelled to Tower Hamlets in an open top double decker bus, holding a brief demonstration outside the council offices before the meeting began. Their campaign has been robustly supported by politicians including Greg Mulholland MP, Chair of the Save The Pub Group in Parliament, Tom Copley London Assembly Member and Tower Hamlets' new Mayor, John Biggs. Local MP Rushanara Ali also wrote to the council on behalf of constituents objecting to the plans. Vinny Mulhern, whose family have run the Duke successfully for many years, said afterwards "This is a great result. It was good that the councillors understood the problems we face with what has been suggested, especially about the loss of the pub garden. I hope they keep their nerve at the next meeting and confirm the refusal". The Duke's consultant who spoke against the proposals at the Town Hall on behalf of Mr Mulhern and the community, Dale Ingram of Planning For Pubs, said "Developers have had it all too much their own way with pubs over the past ten years, and government and local planners are wising up to it. This community in Spitalfields will not stand for the loss of the pub or its garden. Any developer would be well advised to get objective independent advice before acquiring any pub for development to make sure they don't end up with an expensive white elephant on their hands." The Duke is currently the subject of an application for registration as an Asset of Community Value under the Localism Act.