Published: 00:00, 12 December 2016
| Updated: 15:02, 12 December 2016
The controversial demolition of a much-loved pub was due to a “communication error”, it has been revealed.
People were furious when bulldozers arrived at the Battle of Britain in Coldharbour Road, Northfleet, and started to tear it down without permission from Gravesham council.
It caused further outrage when council officers told the workers to stop, only to be ignored. In the end the council was forced to allow the complete demolition of the historic pub because it was structurally unsafe.
The former RAF drinking hole was run by the site landowners, Brakspear brewery whose planning consultants, the Caldecotte Group, instructed demolition company Putnam Construction Services to demolish it. When asked why the building was torn down before permisson was given Caldecotte director Paul Sturgess said: “There was an unfortunate error on our part, due to a miscommunication.”
The admission comes as:
The site has been targeted in a large-scale fly-tipping operation
A row over the disposal of asbestos continues
Campaigners continue their efforts to have the pub rebuilt
More than 50 people turned out in protest following the demolition and now an asset of community value (ACVs) application put in by The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) is being considered.
If the pub is listed as an asset, Brakspear could be forced to have the pub rebuilt.
This decision is not expected before Christmas, but a residents group led by campaigner Tina Brooker is pushing for more information after a series of inconsistencies.
Mrs Brooker, of The Warren, Gravesend, said: “Nothing adds up here. I’ve been concerned about the asbestos on the pub site since demolition. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has assured us the correct checks were carried out, but the dates don’t add up. I’ve sent an FOI to the HSE and they haven’t responded within the time, either.
“People are angry. They loved this pub for decades and want it back but mostly people don’t like that way this has all been handled.”
An asbestos survey was carried out on the pub site but only after some of the demolition had already started, and it was incorrectly dated as August instead of October.
The group argues this raises suspicions and makes it impossible to be assured over the asbestos.
Peter Soltau of Baileys Asbestos Services (BAS) surveyed the site himself and noted in his report: “To the rear of the building a smaller block is located. The block was part- demolished at the time of inspection and as such was unsafe to fully access.”
Despite claims there was asbestos in the building from the Battle’s former landlord, Jake Putnam who owns the demolition company told KentOnline that the outbuilding was no more than a brick built shed, with a wooden roof and without any of the cancer-causing substance.
Mr Sturgess added: “At the time of demolition there was nothing on site of any concern. An asbestos report was provided to the environmental officer who was satisfied and if the local authority if there was something wrong wrongly there I’m sure they will take it up with us, or Putnam.”
Meanwhile, tons of rubbish were illegally dumped on the grounds under darkness.
A tipper truck reportedly being driven by a man without insurance or a licence, overturned on the roundabout near to the pub on December 1.
At the same time the demolition site was broken into, the chain holding the hoarding together cut in half, and residents reported truck after truck entering the grounds to dump waste. The incidents are believed to be linked.
Police were contacted but referred the issue to Gravesham council.
A council spokeswoman said: “The fly-tipping on the Battle of Britain site is on private land so it is the responsibility of the land owner to arrange removal. Since the fly-tipping the owners of the site have put in better security measures to stop illegal access.
"We are working with other agencies to investigate. We’re taking this incident very seriously and anyone who may have witnessed the fly-tipping or has any information should contact us.”