Progress at the Half Moon
Closed since the Great Flood of August 2013, The Half Moon pub is set to reopen in late 2016. The proposed new lessee is brewer and pub chain Fuller, Smith & Turner, who said: “We are delighted to announce that we have acquired the lease for the Half Moon, Herne Hill. In conjunction with the Dulwich Estate, we will be making a substantial investment in the pub to return it to its former glory. We aim to be reopening the pub, complete with a small number of hotel bedrooms, in the late summer, subject to gaining relevant planning and listed building consents.”
On 5 April 2016 Southwark’s Planning Committee voted 5-1 in favour of granting Fuller’s Listing and Full Planning consent for the Half Moon. Prior to the meeting, Fuller’s had allowed for some flexible space in the internal back area (with moveable tables and chairs) which could be used for entertainment. The significance of the Asset of Community Value was discussed. The legal officer pointed out that the Use A4 was for a pub/drinking establishment with the music as an ancillary activity and there is no obligation as such to run the pub as a music venue.
The Half Moon today is a sorry sight, and is greatly missed. We have very few proper pubs in Herne Hill, and it is certain that the locals will flock back after three years of deprivation.
Owing to growing local concern about the pub’s lengthy closure and the absence of information as to when or in what form it might re-open, Southwark agreed to list it as an Asset of Community Value, in part for the contribution of live music to the social well-being of the local community. ACV status is a consideration in granting or refusing a planning application for change of use. Since, however, the proposed use of the ground floor in planning terms remains the same, whether a live music venue is included or not, the relevance of the ACV status was always questionable. There were many objections to the application, as part of a well-organised campaign in favour of reinstating a music venue. Fuller’s plans indicate kitchen and restaurant spaces at the rear, in place of the performance room (originally designed for billiards). They made it clear that they did not want to run a music venue, of which they have no experience, but they do want to run a gastropub, where they have plenty of experience. They also point to the fact that their scheme will create 35 full-time and part-time jobs.
Can a space serve both as a restaurant and a live music venue? Dulwich Estate have said that the Half Moon was advertised to 64 pub operators. Seven expressed interest, but none wanted to run a live music venue as part of their business (see p.2 of their letter below).
There are, of course, many locals who don’t feel strongly about the loss of a once famous live music venue and its associated late-night activities. They would be very happy to have a good gastropub in the heart of Herne Hill. Their wish is to see Herne Hill’s landmark Grade II* building return as a pub, after the substantial attention to its deteriorating fabric that is urgently required. The details of the Fullers proposals (see the Southwark planning website, reference 16/AP/0167) shows that their scheme meets those criteria very well.
While we wait for our pub to reopen, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Robert Harrison, former leaseholder (2006-13) of the Half Moon, as told to Jason Tate, journalist and Herne Hill resident. Warning: includes infamous ‘banned’ list, as seen on TV!