CAROLINE Lucas has responded after a property developer caused outrage by hiring builders to hack vintage tiles off a locally listed pub.
Charlie Southall abandoned plans to renovate the Montreal Arms in Brighton so Ukrainian refugees could be housed there after neighbours questioned his motives.
On Tuesday, workers began removing the green tiles from the pub in Albion Hill, as Mr Southall handed out a leaflet claiming they were beyond repair.
By 4pm, Brighton and Hove City Council had issued a stop notice, by which point a large sections of the tiles had been destroyed.
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas took to social media to share her disappointment.
“This is terrible. Utter vandalism of beautiful Montreal Arms in my Brighton constituency,” she said.
“I’ve contacted the owner urging them to stop and, along with Green ward councillors, am in touch with Council’s Planning Enforcement Dept.
“This absolutely cannot go unchallenged.”
Hanover resident Ruth Boyd said if the aim was to convert the pub into housing for refugees, there was no need to remove the tiles.
“The fact that he’s chosen to attack the antique tiles – the most visible and arguably the most contentious part of the building – feels like a petty and bitter attack on the community,” she said.
“He doesn’t have planning permission or apparently the funds to do the necessary work for his ‘philanthropic project’ inside the building.
“Instead, he wastes time and money hacking away at the perfectly serviceable exterior of the property, knowing it would upset and offend those of us who want the Montreal to be able to continue as a public house.”
Neighbour Ken Frost added: “The speed at which he is removing the tiles indicates that he wants the change of use to become a fait accompli.
“I trust and assume the council will stop this asap.”
Mr Southall previously said he had bought the pub “on a whim” before launching an £85,000 crowdfunder to do it up and allow Ukrainian women and children to live there for three years.
These plans would have involved a change of use from pub to residential, which Brighton and Hove City Council will now only grant after a venue has been advertised as a pub for at least two years at a fair market rent with no interest.
A change of use to residential use would significantly increase the value of the building.
The council’s deputy leader councillor Sue Shanks said she was “angry” about the situation.
“We believe there has been a breach of planning controls,” she said.
The previous owners, The Stonegate group, applied to remove the tiles last year. The application was withdrawn in October 2021 after objections.
A leaflet Mr Southall handed out to people asking why workers are removing the tiles stated: “The new property owner has exactly the same permitted development rights as any other property owner in the area, and it is entirely lawful for external features to be altered or removed.
“This is a privately owned property. Please respect the legal rights of the current property owner.”