Letter to the Editor: No wrongdoing by council over Morden Tavern deal

Your Local Guardian: The Morden Tavern, owned by Merton Council, was due to be sold to a developer The Morden Tavern, owned by Merton Council, was due to be sold to a developer

Coun Andrew Judge, Merton Council cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration (Labour, Abbey ward)

In response to your article ('Developer's appeal may revive Morden Tavern deal') and, specifically to the comment made by the St Helier Pub Group, we have a highly professional team of dedicated planning officers who work to maintain Merton as a vibrant borough both for residents and businesses through a common sense approach to planning. 

In all matters regarding the Morden Tavern, both the Local Government Ombudsman and the Audit Commission found the council had acted entirely properly and complied with its strict planning policy, procedure and government legislation. 

Merton's planning policies protect pubs that are economically viable, where there is realistic demand from an occupier. 

So far there has been no evidence to demonstrate a realistic commercial interest in the pub, but if it exists, I maintain that we would certainly take it into consideration in future decision making.


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4:01pm Mon 30 Apr 12

Campaign for Morden Tavern says...

Both of the official investigations by the Local Government Ombudsman and the Audit Commission confirm the concerns of the campaign group, leaving key questions still unanswered. This includes why Reef Estates were given preferred bidder status before the bid process was complete. In addition, the Audit Commissioner made a recommendation that all property should be subject to independent valuation before disposal, and not left to Council officers.

As to viability, that is a matter for qualified and experienced pub operators to determine, and not Mr Judge or Merton Council, who are not, as we understand it, in the pub business. There is now serious commercial interest by the St Helier Pub Group itself, under a community cooperative scheme. This has been enthusiastically backed by local residents, CAMRA and other independent pub operators and its business plan is the product of input by, and the serious scrutiny of, experienced publicans. Our plan is both commercially sound and operationally robust.

We look forward to working with Merton to see this come to fruition once the planning appeal has been dismissed by the Inspector, placing the Morden Tavern back where it belongs, at the heart of the St Helier community.
Both of the official investigations by the Local Government Ombudsman and the Audit Commission confirm the concerns of the campaign group, leaving key questions still unanswered. This includes why Reef Estates were given preferred bidder status before the bid process was complete. In addition, the Audit Commissioner made a recommendation that all property should be subject to independent valuation before disposal, and not left to Council officers. As to viability, that is a matter for qualified and experienced pub operators to determine, and not Mr Judge or Merton Council, who are not, as we understand it, in the pub business. There is now serious commercial interest by the St Helier Pub Group itself, under a community cooperative scheme. This has been enthusiastically backed by local residents, CAMRA and other independent pub operators and its business plan is the product of input by, and the serious scrutiny of, experienced publicans. Our plan is both commercially sound and operationally robust. We look forward to working with Merton to see this come to fruition once the planning appeal has been dismissed by the Inspector, placing the Morden Tavern back where it belongs, at the heart of the St Helier community. Campaign for Morden Tavern

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