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'Historic' Gants Hill pub to be demolished to make way for 10-storey block of student accommodation

PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 November 2019

The Valentine pub in Gants Hill. Picture: Ken Mears

The Valentine pub in Gants Hill. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Plans to demolish a "beautiful piece of historical architecture" in Gants Hill and build a 10-storey modular block of student accommodation in its place have been given the green light.

The Valentine, in Perth Road, closed in February, 2017, and was sold to a real estate company for more than £5million.

Construction company Tide Construction Limited withdrew its initial plans to demolish the 1930s former pub building last year, but the latest plans to knock the pub down and build 321 student rooms were approved by Redbridge Council's planning committee on Wednesday, November 20.

Despite the approval, campaigners have put forward fresh plans to ask the developer to include a music and arts venue as part of the scheme, or find an alternative site for the accommodation.

In the design statement, the applicant said the former public house has been vacant since 2017 and its location as a "prominent vacant building has attracted people to occupy it on an unlawful basis".

Most of the new student rooms, priced "affordably" at £170 per week, will be self-contained, but some will use a shared kitchen.

The scheme is not aimed at one particular university, but the architect for the site said developers would be investing £30million in the project and had carried out sufficient market research.

Some 200 residents have signed petitions to save the "iconic" landmark from demolition.

Paul Scott, who co-founded the Save the Valentine campaign in 2018, said: "It would involve the demolition of an iconic heritage structure which is valued by local social groups.

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"Places like The Valentine are essential to places like Gants Hill.

"It doesn't make any social or environmental sense to replace this pub with student accommodation."

Councillors also raised concerns about the quality of modular developments, which are built off site and brought in afterwards, and how students will contribute to the Gants Hill growth and investment area.

Kim Judge, who launched the campaign to save the pub with Mr Scott last year, has been a Redbridge resident for the last 21 years and has advocated for heritage, culture and the arts in the borough for the last 10 years.

Despite feeling "very deflated" following the decision, she said she remains "devoted" to the campaign.

"Following the decision last night at the planning committee, I felt very deflated when sharing the news with the other campaign supporters," she said.

"We mentioned significant reasons to save The Valentine, it is such a shame that a beautiful piece of historical architecture is being lost to sub-urban modernisation.

"After sharing the sad news with fellow campaign supporters, I spent many hours contemplating how it might be possible to continue our campaign, what were our options?

"If Tide Construction were able to locate an alternative site for the student accommodation, would they consider leasing the site for community ownership?

"If not, might they consider reviewing their plans, to include a music and arts venue?

"Finally, we are seeking advice from organisations to determine how we can remain devoted to the campaign that ultimately protects local heritage, encourages community cohesion and increases cultural capital."

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