Tower Hamlets Council today granted a key victory to the Friends of the Joiners Arms campaign, insisting that developers must provide a late-license LGBTQ+ venue in plans that would otherwise see the iconic East End pub demolished without replacement. Councillors voted unanimously to commit developers to grant a 25 year lease for an LGBTQ+ venue, replicating the late operating hours of the original venue (The former opening times of the Joiners Arms were 4am on weekends, 3am Thursdays and Sundays, and 2am Monday to Wednesday), and insisting the GLA explore ways for “maintaining a local link to elected representatives, and to the LGBTQ+ community” in selecting an operator for the venue.
Councillor Marc Francis, chair of the TH Development Committee, congratulated campaigners, saying that the Committee
“thank you for your input and positive engagement.”
Amy Roberts, co-chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms, said:
"This is an important victory for the LGBTQ+ community, not just in Tower Hamlets, but across the whole of London. What today shows is that dedicated citizens - sharing a common purpose - are powerful and can win big, against overwhelming odds. Together with sister campaigns like We Are The Black Cap and RVT Future, it feels like we are turning the tide of LGBTQ+ closures across the capital, and we look forward to a future venue which can serve our diverse communities.”
Campaigners have been fighting for 3 years to re-establish the much-loved venue, arguing that its closure at the hands of property developers in January 2015 represented the latest example of London’s property sector impacting negatively upon LGBTQ+ culture and spaces which has seen over half of the capital’s LGBTQ+ venues closes in the last decade (SOURCE: UCL Urban Labs Report http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/news/london-lgbtq-venues-have-more-than-halved-in-past-decade).
With the Council deferring the decision in August on the basis of community concerns, campaigners continued to pile pressure on the developer and Tower Hamlets Planning Committee to ensure their voices were heard. They achieved an agreement that the developer would put £130,000 towards fit-out costs of the venue, a 12-month rent-free period, a 22% extension of the floor-space designated for the venue, and additional commitments to enhancing the sound-proofing of the venue, including for the smoking area.
Campaigners at Friends of the Joiners Arms say their next move is to establish themselves as a fully-cooperative community organisation and get themselves into a financial position to launch a successful bid on the lease of the venue when it goes out to tender. They encourage other communities across the country to stand up and fight to protect spaces that are invaluable to them.
Peter Cragg, campaigner for Friends of the Joiners Arms, said:
“Planning officers initially wanted the venue to close at midnight on weekends and 11pm on weeknights. But Councillors shared our concerns that everything fun happens after midnight - and, more seriously, that the late-night nature of the venue provided so much of the benefit to our community.
“In safeguarding an LGBTQ+ venue for the next quarter of a century, and removing proposed limits to opening hours, we are pleased that the council and the developer have agreed with us that the community needs a space to express ourselves, to drink, dance, love and learn.”
Dan Laverick, campaigner for Friends of the Joiners Arms said:
“Our campaign shows that it is always worth fighting for the things that are important to you and your community. We have always known that this is part of a much wider struggle over who controls urban space, and have always taken the view that our changing urban landscape should be decided by the people who live, work and socialise in our cities.
“We’re thankful to councillors for their support, which shows that who we elect really can make a difference. We need to apply that lesson on a larger scale and get organised if we hope to address the big issues of our time: adequate housing provision for all, and bringing our cities, our land, under community control.”
About Friends of the Joiners Arms
The Friends of the Joiners Arms is a campaign group seeking to save and evolve The Joiners Arms. The group successfully secured designated Asset of Community Value status for the venue, which will give the community a greater say in the building's use and have priority in purchasing it.
With the building, the group intends to transform The Joiners Arms into London's only cooperatively owned and managed LGBTQ+ Community Centre, while maintaining its functions as a pub with late license. This will be a space that provides vital facilities and support to all LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who wish to stand up for minority communities, support one another, and proactively engage in building a future free of hate and insecurity.
234E Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9NN