Online petition to save Stepney’s George Tavern in bid to stop developers

Pauline Forster, owner of The George Tavern.

Pauline Forster, owner of The George Tavern. - Credit: Archant

Angry pub landlady Pauline Forster has started an online petition this week in the latest round in her six-year battle with developers who are trying to build luxury flats next to her Grade II-listed music venue in London’s East End.

The George Tavern in the Commercial Road

The George Tavern in the Commercial Road - Credit: George Tavern campaign

It follows the weekend gales which brought down hoardings put up by Swan Housing next door to her George Tavern in the Commercial Road.

The development has already been rejected twice by Tower Hamlets Council, but is now going to the Secretary of State on appeal next month.

The last rejection in October led to demolition workers moving in which Pauline claims caused damage to her own property.

“I called police when the demo men started smashing the property,” she said. “One of the men came into my kitchen with an axe—my son and his girlfriend screamed. The man didn’t know we lived there.

“I have been traumatised by this experience and can’t cope with the stress.”

But the latest episode was Saturday’s gale which she says brought down hoarding put up by Swan Housing around the former Stepney’s nightclub next to The George.

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“It fell down onto pavement which could have crushed someone,” Pauline added. “The hoarding had a ‘danger’ notice which put people off coming into my pub.”

Her campaign to save the historic, newly-renovated George Tavern was launched in 2008 by Amy Winehouse and backed by celebrities such as Kate Moss and Sir Ian McKellen.

Now the online petition has already received 15,000 signatures in its first week.

A tavern has existed on the site opposite Watney Market for 600 years. Next door is the derelict Stepney’s nightclub now owned by Swan Housing which, if developed into luxury apartments, would ultimately result in noise abatement orders against Pauline’s venue which has hosted live music on site for 50 years, she fears.

“This isn’t just about a music venue,” Pauline insists. “It’s showing developers that musical and cultural space are part of our East End community which play a role in developing the stars of tomorrow.”

The Music Heritage UK charity which preserves Britain’s popular music heritage waded into the fight this week.

Its chief executive James Ketchell said: “Weak planning decisions result in inappropriate residential developments too close to existing music venues which ultimately lead to noise abatement orders that effectively end business.

“It will be a cultural and musical tragedy if this happens to The George.”

Swan Housing’s appeal against the planning refusal is being heard by the Secretary of State on March 5. Work hasn’t started at the site, but the company said tonight it was aware of the damage caused by the weather to the hoardings. Staff visited the site on Monday to make repairs with a temporary fence until permanent fencing in the next two weeks.

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