Published: 16:48, 03 July 2020
| Updated: 17:27, 03 July 2020
Sittingbourne is to lose a former Victorian pub to make way for 15 flats.
Swale councillors unanimously gave permission on Thursday for the old Lion Inn in Church Street, Milton Regis, to be demolished and replaced with a five-storey block of apartments.
The pub can be traced back to 1897 and had been a popular watering hole for paper mill workers and brickmakers. Boxing matches were held in its function hall upstairs.
Its last landlord Percy Wheeler stopped selling beer in 1945. Over the years it escaped demolition despite various attempts to turn it into a warehouse, offices and even a lorry park.
The two-storey building, at one time owned by Whitbread Fremlins, was eventually bought by the applicant's late father in 1979 after it had been standing derelict for more than 20 years and converted into homes. It is empty again after a spell being lived in by squatters.
The new plans include one and two-bedroom apartments, each with a balcony, underneath car parking, electric vehicle charging points and racks for 15 bicycles.
The paper mill opposite closed in 2007 and was demolished in 2011 to make way for Mill Place, a development of 150 homes.
Despite the upstairs hall retaining its wood panelling and original fireplace the building itself was deemed to have no historical or architectural merit.
Cllr Mike Baldock (Ind) 'called in' the application. He said: "I thought as a pub it had some heritage value as the last element of the old mill and felt a decision to pull it down should be taken by members rather than officers.
"I had been hoping there could be a more sympathetic conversion without involving demolition. But it was not to be. The heritage report turned out to be damning and the plans were passed unanimously. It is rather sad."
Allen Whitnell, chairman of the Sittingbourne Heritage Museum also objected. He said: "I am concerned about the loss of our heritage." The Sittingbourne Society asked for "careful consideration" of the building’s merits to be taken into account.
The application for outline planning permission said the old pub was "an island out of place" and the new building will “maintain the character of the local area” and “not give rise to an unacceptable impact upon residential amenities.”