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Revised plans to turn historic Victorian pub The George and Dragon in Swanscombe into Domino’s Pizza takeaway

Plans have resurfaced to turn a historic 131-year-old pub into a takeaway pizzeria – just two years after they were turned down.

The George and Dragon has sat on the corner of the junction between London Road and Swanscombe High Street since 1891.

The George and Dragon Pub in Swanscombe could be turned into a takeaway pizzeria. Photo: Matt Brown/Flickr

As a former Victorian inn, the vintage boozer would welcome many weary travelers and more recently has found success as local CAMRA pub of the year.

But despite its reputation, it hasn’t welcomed punters for a light refresh since closing for good in 2019 when the owner and landlady announced they were retiring.

An application was then made to the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) to change the use of the premises to a take-out business with the franchise chain Domino’s Pizza set to take over.

But the offer was refused in 2020 and an appeal against the decision refused by the Town Planning Inspectorate.

Planners said the proposal would result in the loss of a “community facility for non-community purposes” and considered it an unsuitable location with insufficient parking.

The George and Dragon Pub in Swanscombe has been on the market for many years without success
The George and Dragon Pub in Swanscombe has been on the market for many years without success

Concerns have also been raised over the length of marketing exercises to explore the pub’s continued use as a ‘community-run’ facility.

Undeterred, the pizza bosses have now submitted a new application which again seeks permission to change the use of the vacant public house to a hot take-out joint.

The proposed take-out would operate between 10 a.m. and midnight daily and will generate an as-yet-undetermined number of local jobs.

The plans outline a new layout to provide a customer service area with limited seating at the front of the store with the kitchen behind.

To the rear there will be a cold room, storage area and washing area as well as staff facilities. There will be eight parking spaces accessible via London Road.

The resubmitted plans have just released new updated evidence of market after attempts to find a buyer failed.

Dominos could take over the historic pub
Dominos could take over the historic pub

The pub has been vacant since 2019 and has been on the market since November 2018.

In their planning application, the applicant states that although ‘very limited interest’ was shown in reusing the site as a pub, no realistic evidence was provided to demonstrate that a purchase would have been possible .

He says: “Five months passed after the target market campaign with no more interest in the site.

“In addition to the initial twelve month marketing period, this is ample time to establish that there is no potential for the site to be reoccupied for community purposes.”

As such, the franchisee considers that the change of use of the site is part of EDC’s development policy.

The statement adds: “The proposed change of use will have significant economic benefits for the local area, with the re-use of the buildings leading to the creation of a significant number of jobs for the local population, as well as other benefits resulting from the renovation of the building and improvements to its appearance and street scene.

“More ideas should be sought to help the city become a positive place to live…”

“It is therefore clear that the loss of the public house is justified in terms of national and local planning policy.”

But the re-emergence of Domino’s Pizza plans prompted more than 30 comments on EDC’s planning portal, with most voicing their opinion against the proposals.

The main reasons cited were traffic congestion, lack of access and parking, and the loss of a community facility.

One commented: “That shouldn’t be allowed. The city leads more local amenities, not pizzerias of which there are several within a few miles.

“More ideas need to be sought to help the city become a positive place to live.”

Another added: “We have way too many cheap places to eat – why the hell would we want to turn this lovely building into another one??

“It will cause traffic problems at this junction and put more delivery scooters on the roads.”

Historian Christoph Bull says he would rather the pub was turned into a restaurant than a takeaway
Historian Christoph Bull says he would rather the pub was turned into a restaurant than a takeaway

Kent historian Christoph Bull said: “I want the building to be used for something, but I don’t want it destroyed or turned into a take-out.

“Swanscombe doesn’t need more saturated fat in his blood than he already has.”

He added that his preference would be for it to be converted into a German restaurant, but said that whatever it was used for, it would face parking and access issues.

Swanscombe and Greenhithe Town Council have also voiced their opposition to the plans.

A statement read: “City Council members, as locals, know the proposal would bring more traffic to the immediate vicinity which is already suffering from heavy use and cannot absorb it.

“The City Council does not believe that this request is sufficient to mitigate the reasons why the previous request was refused, the refusal being upheld on appeal by the Town Planning Inspectorate.

The Wheatsheaf pub in Swanscombe High Street has been vacant for some time
The Wheatsheaf pub in Swanscombe High Street has been vacant for some time

It’s not the first historic building in the area to be the subject of redevelopment plans, with All Saints Church opposite having been converted into apartments in recent years.

The Alma Public House in Swanscombe High Street was recently demolished to make way for houses and the Wheatsheaf pub, also in High Street, has also been slated to become flats.

The previous owner and landlady purchased the George and Dragon in 2011 and oversaw a revival of fortunes.

Only eight years ago it was named one of the country’s top 150 authentic ale local pubs, winning Gravesend and Darent Valley CAMRA Pub of the Year two years in a row.

Its success coincided with the opening of the Caveman Brewery in 2013 by Nick Byram and James Hayward, who went on to establish The Iron Pier Brewery in Northfleet.

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