The council has launched an investigation into the demolition of the former Fishmonger’s Arms public house in St John’s Hill.
The pub, which was more recently known as The Alchemist, was taken down last month. The owner had not sought consent to do this, although, say the council, he was required to do so under planning rules because it is located in a conservation area.
In council documents seeking approval to pursue legal action against the developer involved, the pub is described as “a cherished heritage asset making an important contribution to the townscape of the conservation area”.
Planning chairman Cllr Sarah McDermott said: “There appears to be no justification for the demolition of this important local landmark and no consent was sought by the owners beforehand.
“We are therefore treating this as a very serious breach of planning rules, which we believe can only be put right by the complete rebuilding and reconstruction of this important community asset, using the same materials and to the same architectural design.
“This building is an integral part of the St John’s Hill Grove conservation area and its loss will be keenly felt by local people. That’s why we are determined to take action to ensure it’s restored for future generations.”
The council is looking to step up planning protection for pubs in the borough. A significant number of Article 4 Directions have been proposed in the case of pubs and bars that the council believes have historic, architectural or community value. Article 4 Directions remove permitted development rights, meaning owners would need to apply for permission before demolition or change of use.
The decision by councillors on the Community Services committee is expected to be ratified by the council’s Executive soon.
There are 121 bars and pubs that have been identified as “having historic or architectural value”, that are in a conservation area or that “make a positive contribution to their community”.
They include The Alma, The Ship and The Cat’s Back in Wandsworth, The Bricklayers Arms, Arab Boy and Railway in Putney, The Plough and The Beehive in Battersea and The Selkirk, Trafalgar Arms and Wheatsheaf in Tooting.
Some pubs that are currently closed would get protection, including the White Lion in Putney High Street and The Brewery Tap in Wandsworth High Street.
The Article 4 Directions would be published in September and pub owners notified and given a chance to respond, enabling them to come into force in September 2016 .
Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said: “We cannot sit by and watch all our much-loved local pubs close, or become supermarkets or estate agents. We have come to the conclusion that the best way to protect them is Article 4 Directions alongside stronger planning guidelines.
“We hope by doing this we will keep our communities strong and vibrant and protect our common cultural and architectural heritage.”