A 19th century pub in Charlton that was formerly used as a cannabis factory has had plans to convert it into a Tesco and a set of flats rejected.

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected an appeal request on plans to add an additional storey and back extension to the White Swan pub building to provide seven flats with a retail unit on the ground floor.

Planning documents from Jenkins Law, on behalf of Mendoza Limited, said it was ‘unrealistic’ for the building to continue functioning as a pub due to the ‘poor level’ of local interest, with the pub having closed in March 2020.

They added that Tesco had sent a proposal to use the ground floor space of the building after viewing it in December 2022.

The appeal was made after Mendoza, the owner of the building, claimed Greenwich Council took too long to make a decision on the proposal.

The authority claimed this was due to the applicant and agent taking too long to provide the required documentation for the scheme.

The council said that it would have rejected the proposal based on the lack of sufficient evidence to support the loss of the pub.

The Planning Inspectorate said in its decision notice that the applicant initially estimated refurbishment costs for the pub to be £125,000 but later increased this to £400,000.

The inspector said no steps had been taken by the applicant to clean or repair the building to increase the potential interest.

Kevin Savage, the inspector appointed for the appeal, noted the damage of the building by squatters and following its use as a cannabis farm.

A Met Police spokesperson previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that a visit in September 2023 resulted in a disused cannabis factory being found in the building, including electrical equipment, plant pots and soil left behind.

Local resident Bridget Duffy, 55, previously told the LDRS: “There was a weed farm set up in it that was there for ages. It was reported to the police, but nothing happened.

"I walked past it one morning and I saw people actually taking huge plants and stuff over to it and I reported it. I think it was about five weeks until anything was done.”

She added: “It obviously must have been there for a long time as it was well established… A few days later I saw people coming out and taking their equipment with them in broad daylight.”

Greenwich Council received a petition earlier this year to restore the White Swan into a working pub with function rooms, having been signed by over 1,200 residents.

Labour Councillor Jo van den Broek said at a council meeting last December that the building’s first floor function rooms had been destroyed by workmen without the council’s permission.

Mr Savage said in their report that it was clear more investment had been spent by Mendoza renovating the first floor of the building than repairing the ground floor.

He added that the company’s asking price when attempting to rent out the property in previous years was not realistic and that an option to sell the building’s freehold should have been made available.

The inspector said in their decision: “The evidence indicates that the condition of the building has deteriorated significantly under the appellant’s ownership.

"Although the period of squatting and use as a cannabis farm was not intentional, the responsibility for the building’s condition rests with the owner, and the evidence before me does not suggest the events which occurred were wholly unavoidable.”

The report added that the proposed extensions to the building would not be faithful to the structure’s original form.

However, credit was given to the scheme providing housing in the area given the limited supply available to the council at present.

The inspector said in their conclusion: “There would be significant harm arising due to the unjustified loss of a community facility in the public house, as well as adverse effects on designated and non-designated heritage assets and neighbours’ living conditions.

"There would also be shortcomings in the standard of accommodation proposed.”

The pub building was locally listed by Greenwich Council in July last year. Council documents said it was reconstructed in 1889 to be used as a hotel, with the attic later being damaged from bombing during World War II.

A Croydon Council spokesperson confirmed to the LDRS earlier this month that it had placed homeless individuals seeking emergency accommodation on the White Swan site.

Both the authority and Greenwich Council said that the matter was being investigated and they were working closely together to take any necessary actions.

They added: “We are reviewing our property procurement processes to ensure that we continue to offer our residents properties that are good quality and compliant with current standards and legal requirements.”

Mendoza Limited and Jenkins Law were approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.