Published: 17:00, 18 October 2016
| Updated: 17:08, 18 October 2016
More than 50 people stood outside the flattened remains of a historic pub in protest at it being illegally bulldozed in the dead of night.
Gravesham council was forced to allow the complete demolition to the already half-standing and much loved Battle of Britain, when unauthorised works made it dangerous.
While not listed, the pub is much loved by the community, having originated as a drinking hole put up by RAF personnel just after the war.
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People were furious when bulldozers arrived at the historic community in Coldharbour Road, Northfleet, under the cover of darkness last week to start the work, undetected by council officers.
Putnam Construction Services, contracted to carry out the work, were forced to stop as soon as the council became aware, but then continued their work once the council officers had left.
It was deemed dangerous by Gravesham council on a second visit and more needed to be knocked down to make it safe.
There is now nothing left of the site but rubble.
On Tuesday people turned up to vent their anger – and fear as asbestos is said to be a risk. They stood at the entrance of the site and blocked the contractors from entering or leaving.
Five police cars and at least eight officers were called there just after noon. Most of the protesters were of retirement age and no offences were reported. Officers remained at the scene throughout the afternoon.
Led by Tina Brooker, of The Warren, Gravesend, she said: “There was asbestos in that old building, but the demolition has been so rushed, health and safety precautions have not been taken. Everything is blowing over to the school next door, it’s so dangerous. My grandchildren are there.
“This is a real kick in the teeth for the local community too. We all have to follow the rules, why are these people allowed to carry on with this vandalism?
“I had my 30th birthday there, and my husband had his 50th. As a young man he played in a band there, this pub has been a huge part of all of our lives for decades.
“We want it rebuilt, brick by brick. People want this pub. How dare they tear it down?
“If you’re going to do it, do it the right way. Let the community have their say.
“The previous landlord left in 2014 but he was fantastic, he made it so popular, more than 2,000 people came out for their fireworks display.”
She said the pub went downhill when another publican took it over and there was talk of it being sold for housing. However, it was still popular, she said, and events were still being booked for coming months.
Gravesham MP Adam Holloway said: “It is completely outrageous. And this is not the first time we have seen this sort of thing in Gravesend.”
Developers Caldecotte Group applied to the council on October 5 to ask whether permission was needed prior to demolition of the building.
That application had not been decided and on October 7 the developer confirmed in writing that “demolition will not begin until the prior approval application is determined”.
A spokesman for the council said: “Planning officers were astonished when they visited the site on October 12, because demolition had begun.
“The site foreman said one wall had been rendered unsafe and would have to be removed but agreed to stop work until a further building control visit later that day.
“Officers returned and were shocked that much more of the building had been knocked down.
“The council is seeking an explanation from the developer.”
In April 2012 an application to build a pair of semi detached houses on the site was approved but that permission has now lapsed. There are no other planning applications pending there.
Putnam Construction Services, contracted to carry out the work, have declined to comment.
As has the Brakspear Brewery owned by the applicant for the demolition J. T Davies & Sons, Paul Sturgess of the Caldecotte Group and the pub’s most recent manager Phil Davies.