East End landlady of listed pub in fresh fight to block flats next door

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The landlady of an East End pub who triumphed in a 10-year legal fight to stop flats being built next door is facing another battle.

Pauline Forster, who was backed by stars including Kate Moss and Georgia May Jagger, won her case at the Court of Appeal last year.

She halted proposals which she said would pose a threat to her late-night music licence at The George Tavern in Stepney — a Grade II listed music venue and mecca for artists and poets.

However, Tower Hamlets council has now sold a building adjacent to the pub to developers Bluecroft Property and IPE Developments.

The joint venture wants to transform the empty 12,000 sq ft council office block, which backs onto the pub’s beer garden, into 42 flats and offices in an estimated £20 million development.

Celebrity backing: landlady Pauline Forster outside The George in Stepney. Left, Georgia May Jagger

Mrs Forster, 66, said it would be devastating if the plans go ahead because of potential noise complaints. She said: “I’ve spent 10 years fighting developers on one side and I am now going to have to go through it all again. It is just not fair. The council have sold the building and just passed this fight on to me. I’m very worried.”

The George, in Commercial Road, which is mentioned in the writings of Chaucer, Pepys and Dickens, is also used for photoshoots and filming. Tonight it will host a victory party to celebrate its Court of Appeal win, with supporter Sir Ian McKellen among the guests. However, Mrs Forster said: “On the one hand we are celebrating, but on the other, we are now being attacked again.”

Tim Gaskell, director of CMA Planning, which submitted the proposals, said no one wanted to “spend years with lawyers in the courts” and that the project was different from that of the defeated Swan Housing Association.

It would use office space as “a buffer” between the flats and the pub and install double glazing to limit noise. The developers would also make potential residents aware of The George’s late-night music licence in their marketing and lease agreements, he added. Mr Gaskell said: “We don’t want to do anything to undermine The George. You can’t stop people complaining once they move in, that is their right, but we will do everything we can to make sure they are aware of what they are getting into.

“We are well aware that she has concerns and whatever we do that is probably always going to remain, [but] we don’t want to end up in the same position as the other developers so we are trying hard to avoid that. Yes The George makes noise late into the night. We know that and don’t want to change that … we need to make sure the noise does not disturb our residents.”

The council said the site was sold after “an open market competitive process on the basis of the best offer received”. It said it has asked for further noise testing “which will then be used to help the assessment of the (planning) application”. It added: “There is a huge need to provide for new housing in the borough and we are mindful of the need to protect a valued entertainment space while also allowing for sustainable development.”

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