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Pub landlady Pauline Forster in ‘final’ battle to save Stepney’s historic George Tavern

18:33 16 February 2017

George Tavern's landlady Pauline Forster

George Tavern's landlady Pauline Forster

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Pub landlady Pauline Forster is going back to her local town hall in her long-running battle to stop developers putting up a block of six luxury flats on her doorstep.

Landlady Pauline Forster's son Clovis Wilson-Copp celebrating Appeal Court ruling for The George Tavern in 2016Landlady Pauline Forster's son Clovis Wilson-Copp celebrating Appeal Court ruling for The George Tavern in 2016

She thought she had finally won her nine-year fight last summer to stop the development next to east London’s famous George Tavern music venue in the Commercial Road.

Swan Hosing lost an Appeal Court ruling in July to build the block, which would blot out natural daylight to the upstairs studios above the pub used for BBC TV period dramas and modelling photoshoots.

But now Swan Housing has been granted an appeal which is being heard at Tower Hamlets council on March 22, when Pauline defends the arguments she’s had since 2008.

“It’s a nightmare—it should be over,” she told the East London Advertiser today.

George Tavern under threat...pub supporters ready for a scrapGeorge Tavern under threat...pub supporters ready for a scrap

“This is the final round after years of legal wrangling.

“It’s expensive getting experts representing you—but it’s important I do it, otherwise I’d lose my music license. It never seems to end.”

She has support from the mayors of London and Tower Hamlets, the London Assembly and from Music Heritage.

Tower Hamlets council turned down Swan Housing’s application in July, 2013, to turn the old Stepney night club next to The George into six private flats. The council found the land “unsuitable for residential use” due to the noise generated by The George.

George Tavern under threat... landlady's son Clovis Wilson-Copp behind the barGeorge Tavern under threat... landlady's son Clovis Wilson-Copp behind the bar

Swan appealed 15 months later and the ban was overturned by the Planning Inspectorate after Swan had commissioned a sound report which claimed the noise wouldn’t make the scheme unsuitable for residential use.

But the High Court granted Pauline a judicial review and last July the planning application was quashed.

The judgment turned on the fact that the luxury flats would “seriously jeopardise the unique location and photography business at The George” since the only natural light source onto the landings and historic staircase would be eliminated.

The George is a favourite with the BBC for period dramas because of its authentic Georgian décor and original features like the wooden panelling and marble fireplace.

A documentary-drama about the Krays was filmed in the saloon bar three years ago. The 2015 movie Mr Holmes used the upstairs for interior scenes, starring Sir Ian McKellan—who didn’t have far to walk to the film set from his home in Limehouse.

Profits from filming and fashion model photoshoots subsidise the live music venue and ongoing restoration of the Grade-II listed building.

Records of the tavern date from 1623, although an ale house is thought to have existed 200 years before then, known as ‘The Halfway House’ between the village of Stepney and City of London, even before the Commercial Road existed.

Oliver Cromwell stabled his horses there in the 1640s during the English Civil War.

The pub today has a 3am music license which Pauline admits would be “pretty hellish for any new neighbours”—but The George was there first, by 600 years.

She’s ready to do battle again at the March 22 Town Hall public hearing that begins 10am.

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