It took under 12 hours for Chelsfield regulars to launch a social media campaign to save their pub.

Hours after discovering the pub’s owner, Punch Taverns, wanted to bulldoze the building for apartments, a new bar and shop, Save the Chelsfield was set up from a laptop at the end of the bar.

Now, four months later, more than 1,000 objections have been filed with the council and Punch has taken its scheme to the Planning Inspectorate.

Punch proposes a block of flats above a new pub, but regulars say The Chelsfield can’t be replaced.

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Brian Gannon, 57, is one of the key campaigners. In between offering near enough everyone who walks in a drink, he explains why redeveloping The Chelsfield has struck such a nerve.

“Once somewhere is gone, as we know it is gone. People won’t migrate on mass. Once that happens to any community, for any reason, not just a pub, you can’t gel that back together. It’s impossible.

“The new bar – I won’t call it a pub – won’t be built within six months or anything like that. People will disperse and once people go, they tend not to come back.”


Steve Robinson, who has been drinking in the pub for well over a decade, agrees.

The 44-year-old said: “It would change the dynamics. It would be a smaller pub of a different variety. I moved to the area 16 years ago. All of my very good friends in the area, I met in here over the years.

“Certainly all of us stood here. If I needed help and had to pick the phone up, it would be from somebody who I met in here. It’s difficult to quantify – everyone has their own stories.”

Locals involved in Save the Chelsfield, who have been drinking in the pub for a combined 80 years, have dedicated the last four months to familiarising themselves with planning law and social media campaigning.

More than 1,000 people now back their Facebook page, with their posts being viewed by more than 7,000.

Clive Goodwin, 44, admits they have been taken aback by the support – “It’s become pretty time consuming”, he said. “I don’t think anyone thought we’d get these numbers. People are following from far and wide.”

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The group are constantly retweeting similar campaigns – Save the Queensbury, Save Coach Soho, Save Three Tuns Guilden.

The Campaign for Real Ale estimate that pubs in the UK are closing at a rate of 29 a week – double the rate of 2011.

Campaigners have picked out practical points to oppose, separating themselves from sentimentality to argue on the grounds of design, space, and viability.

For Save the Chelsfield, a new bar wouldn’t last – struggling to replicate what has been built up over 83 years – and stripped of offering similar entertainment due to the flats upstairs.

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“They said this is struggling, they’ve obviously not been in here for a while,” Brian said.

“There’s a diversity to this place. Whole generations coming in here. Older people, younger people, it serves more than one purpose. Cricket clubs come in here, football clubs, cyclists, Karaoke nights, people from all over. Do they fit in – of course they do. But they won’t wait around.”

Norman Warner, of Bromley Camra, confirmed: “For the period when the pub is closed, there is a finite period where the community will have to disperse. What will make them come back to a smaller bar? Why would they come back?”

For Save the Chelsfield, Punch Tavern simply owns the building – the community spending their lives in the parlour own the pub.

Ward councillors Mike Botting and Angela Page have backed the campaign, as has Jo Johnson MP – and it has emerged that Bromley Council was minded to reject the application.

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Cllr Botting said: “If they were to close this pub down and build a new pub tomorrow – which we know they can’t do – then inevitably it’ll be different. No one is going to come back here, why would they? A community would be lost.”

Bromley Council didn’t respond within the usual timeframe for Punch’s planning application, so Punch has taken its case to an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

In a letter to the council, Punch’s solicitor refuted the council’s proposed reasoning that the Chelsfield is a landmark building, or that the new bar would be smaller, or that it is viable to provide affordable housing.

The letter finishes: “Given the factual errors in the proposed reasons for refusal, we are concerned that the case officer has not properly understood the application.

“The council should strive to resist being unduly persuaded by the volume of objections against the application and determine the application on its merits against Local Plan policy.

Punch Partnerships did not comment on its appeal to the Planning Inspectorate but said previously: “We are seeking planning permission to complete a major redevelopment of The Chelsfield and this is ongoing where individuals are able to make representatives in respect to the application.

“We believe that the new pub proposed will be a great addition and serve the whole community all year round.”

It’s understood Bromley Council plans to contest the appeal, with a decision on that to be formalised next week