London Borough of Tower Hamlets Development Committee today, on 9 August 2017, decided to defer a decision on a planning application submitted by Regal Homes. The plans would have seen the Joiners Arms demolished, and replaced with a drinking establishment which campaigners say was a ‘trojan horse’, designed to fail. The council agreed with this assessment and made the decision to defer on the basis that the proposal does not provide a viable replacement for the much loved East End LGBTQI+ venue.
Friends of the Joiners Arms (FOTJA) who’ve been campaigning tirelessly for nearly three years to return the venue to the LGBTQI+ community, spoke first in opposition to the proposed development. FOTJA sought independent advice from existing LGBTQI+ venue operators, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), planning experts and specialist lawyers who all came to the same conclusion: that the proposed A4 unit was neither viable as a public house, nor did the heads of terms offer adequate safeguards to the LGBTQI+ character of the venue.
Amy Roberts, Co-Chair of FOTJA said in submission to the planning committee:
“Councillors, you are fully aware of the Trojan Horse tactics employed by developers to gain local authority approval, whereby a pub is promised but fails to materialise. In our view this is nothing more than a Trojan Horse draped in a rainbow flag.
“936 days after it’s closure, we want nothing more than the Joiners to re-open. We want nothing more than the queer community to witness the establishment of an LGBTQI venue that will replace just one of the dozens that have been shut across London. We want nothing more than to end nearly three years of campaigning with a victory for our community, after we’ve endured countless cuts to our vital services and an ongoing rise in hate crime. We want nothing more than a safe, fun, liberating space where we can meet, make friends, fall in love and dance.
“But this must have the diverse voices of our community at the front of any proposal. The Joiners Arms has served communities in Tower Hamlets for over 150 years, 20 of which served the queer community, what is another 6 months or so to get this right?”
Additionally, Amy Roberts highlighted that with no basement storage space, no off-street smoking area, no ancillary accommodation, and a condition that the venue closes early seven days a week, there would be no hope of establishing a space resembling or replacing the highly-popular, late-license community pub.
A representative of the New Joiners Arms Shoreditch also spoke in opposition to the proposals. It was highlighted that the lack of appropriate fit-out by the developers would place unsustainable costs on any potential leaseholder or operator. They estimated the fit-out would cost £130,000 in total, on top of an estimated £100,000+ annual operational costs. They also insisted that any proposed unit should be placed on the corner, which would cover the historic Joiners Arms site.
Councillors expressed severe reservations about the suitability of any A4 venue to serve the communities affected by the proposed plans, as well as the high outlay costs for any potential operator. Councillors requested a site visit, further information and revisiting the plans within the next month, where the planning committee will then consider any changes to the proposals.
Dan Laverick, FOTJA campaigner, says:
“Tonight’s result demonstrates what can happen when grassroots communities organise together and stand up for their rights in the face of those who have the resources to place profit above the concerns of local communities.
“We’re incredibly proud of our campaign and we encourage other communities and minority groups, across London and the UK, to fight for what matters to them, to fight for what matters in their local areas and to fight for what matters in their lives. The outcome today shows how worthwhile these struggles are. ”
FOTJA are holding a public meeting on 23 August 2017 at Limewharf and the next Tower Hamlets Development Committee will be on 6 September from 7pm.
ABOUT ‘FRIENDS OF THE JOINERS ARMS’ CAMPAIGN
LGBTQI+ campaigners fighting to save an iconic East London venue, the Joiners Arms, from demolition are to make their case to Tower Hamlets Planning Committee on 9th August 2017. The Friends of the Joiners Arms, who have fought for over two years to save the venue, successfully had the building granted Asset of Community Value status shortly before its closure in January 2015. They are now calling upon councillors to reject the property developer’s planning application, which involves building mostly office and retail space with no adequate replacement for the LGBTQI+ venue, and work with them to re-establish the venue under community control. They are inviting members of the LGBTQI+ community to attend the committee meeting and show their support for the campaign.
WHY THE ‘THE JOINERS ARMS’ IS IMPORTANT FOR LONDON
The Joiners Arms was the first pub in the country to pay the London Living Wage, and tried to put its maxim ‘Love, Life, Liberty’ into everything it did. It was debauched, hedonistic, fun and accepting – but it also worked outside the scope of being ‘just a queer pub’, running outreach sessions, HIV testing, and hosting community groups. As London has lost nearly 60% of its queer spaces, we want to re-open a venue that has at its heart the diverse community – a place we can all drink, dance, socialise, learn, organise and love.