F ollowing a huge effort from RVT Future and the wider LGBTQ+ community last summer – including the submission of 600+ representations, over 1,000 pages of emails, and around 2,000 file attachments – Lambeth Council have now granted Sui Generis classification to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
This planning classification enshrines the Tavern’s unique usage as we know and love it. For decades, the RVT has been not been simply a pub, nightclub or performance venue but all three, with every part of the building serving these functions. Lambeth’s classification makes this official, meaning anyone seeking to use the site differently – including turning upstairs space into private flats – will now have to fight for planning permission. Lambeth’s classification decision was made based on use of the RVT over the last ten years, and will last for a minimum of ten years.
It is a significant development – but one that does not yet secure the future of the Tavern for the LGBTQ+ community. Due to RVT Future’s relentless efforts over the past two years, the Tavern is now effectively locked to its current use by four legal forms. Firstly, Asset of Community Value (ACV) status extinguishes any Permitted Development Rights; secondly, the Vauxhall Conservation Area has been extended to include the RVT site; and thirdly, any attempts to change this new Sui Generis classification is against Lambeth’s published planning policy for pubs within the area. Finally, the Historic England Grade II listing protects the fabric of the building. This quadruple lock confirms the Tavern as “London’s worst development opportunity”.
Lambeth Council’s verdict simply would not have been possible without the staggering amount of evidence submitted by the wider LGBTQ+ community. It took months for Lambeth to sift through, made even trickier when a Freedom of Information request was received and acted upon halfway through. Thanks go to the RVT’s promoters, performers and punters, and to Lambeth Council for their sensitive handling of the application. Before we explain the Sui Generis classification in detail, we need to relate this decision to the Tavern’s current situation. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is on the market. Christie & Co are selling the company on behalf of Immovate, as a business and not as a venue (you’ll see why this is both frustrating and important in a moment).
RVT Future have reached out to both Immovate and Christie & Co to ask if they intend to activate the Asset of Community Value (something they are obliged to do should they intend to sell the venue). So far, they have not informed Lambeth Council of their intention to sell the venue and to activate the ACV. We can therefore only assume that they have no intention of doing so, which is why they are selling the shares of the company that own the venue. A sneaky work-around that, in our opinion, doesn’t sit within the spirit of the law. This makes Sui Generis ruling on the upper floors extra important. No potential buyer can now sell off the upstairs for private accommodation (something which has threatened the existence of many late night venues in London). The Royal Vauxhall Tavern also sits within the CAZ (Central Activities Zone) meaning business and employment space should take priority over housing. This, coupled with Lambeth’s policy on protecting pubs, should make it even more difficult for any potential purchaser to profit from the property market.