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Last month I highlighted the (what I thought) unusual application to turn The Crown on Lavender Hill into a pub and hostel.

Since then the applicant has withdrawn their planning application. While this often happens when it seems rejection – or a recommendation to reject – is likely I do not know if this was the motivation in this case. Since the applicants already own the property, and their business model seems to be pubs and hostels it may well be a revised application will be forthcoming.

Or alternatively, it seems they might just go ahead and become a hostel anyway!

I noted that I was a little concerned that, on the basis it was not a criminal offence, they opened their first hostel in Tower Hamlets without planning permission. But am a little shocked to discover that they didn’t just open without planning permission, they have never got planning permission.

A search on the Tower Hamlets website reveals that they have put in a number of applications for various elements of work to their first hostel. However, two key ones, seeking permission for the hostel element have both been refused. The applications (references PA/11/00268 and PA/11/00998 which you can search for on the Tower Hamlets planning site) sought to gain a ‘change of use’ which essentially claimed it had been a hostel for 10 years anyway (this was refused because there was no evidence, indeed, the owners had paid residential council tax on the property!) and then applied for a formal change of use which was again rejected.

One of the oddities of planning is that the applicant is irrelevant. Legally I can apply for planning permission to do whatever I want, regardless of whether I have the means to do it or even own the property. However, hearing of this sort of behaviour, which seems to pay little regard to the process (or the neighbours, it seems) really doesn’t fill one with confidence.

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I don’t think I’ve ever flagged up a planning application on here in the same way I highlight licensing applications. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that planning is just not one of my things: I know how important it is, but it’s not something that interests me as much as other aspects of local government.

I’m making an exception for The Crown on Lavender Hill. The future of this site has been the topic of local discussion and rumour, the strongest that it would become a St Mungo’s Hostel for alcoholics. It looks like there was some basis in fact for that and a planning application has been made by the Great Eastern Public House to turn the upper floors into a commercial hostel with seven dormitories and a maximum of 60 beds.

This might raise fears for those who suffered problems they associated with a busy hostel above Mish Mash when it was at 45 Lavender Hill.

Great Eastern have a website detailing the work they have done elsewhere. While looking nice, I can’t help but be a little concerned that they happily detailed their intention to start operating before receiving the necessary approvals:

We informed [Tower Hamlets council] of our intention to begin operating as a Hostel, and therefore sell the accommodation by the bed, a week before our application submission date.

They argued this was not a criminal offence, but I can’t help but find it a rather worrying attitude.

You can see the application on the council’s planning portal (use reference 2011/4220).