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Stars sign up to save George Best's local

Added: Saturday, January 19th 2013

Celebrities led by Hugh Grant and former footballer Sol Campbell have helped save a Chelsea pub in London from being turned into a £20 million home. More than 1,000 people, including Grant and Campbell, signed a petition to stop a planning application to turn the Phene Arms into a private residence, complete with steam room, swimming pool and gym.

A government planning inspector has upheld a decision by Kensington and Chelsea council to reject the application by property developer Robert Bourne, whose 26 year-old daughter Lily runs the pub in Phene Street, SW3. In its ruling, the Planning Inspectorate said closing the Phene would harm the character of the neighbourhood, which is in a conservation area. The pub was the local of football legend George Best.

Terence Bendixson, secretary for planning at the Chelsea Society, said: “We are all absolutely thrilled about this decision because I think it draws a line in the sand and makes pubs in Kensington and Chelsea very dangerous for developers. It is vital that we keep our local pubs and this campaign showed how much support there is for the Phene.”

Robert Bourne is thought to have spent a six-figure sum in legal bills attempting to get permission to turn the 163 year-old Phene in to a private home. He has also spent millions on updating the pub since he bought it 10 years ago. His first application for change of use in March 2012 said the pub, built by philanthropist Samuel Phene for local workers in 1850, “served no recognisable local community function”. But residents blocked the redevelopment, using a new policy brought in by the local council to protect pubs from closure.

Paul Tallentyre, director of pubs at leisure developer David Coffer Lyons, who helped Bourne buy the Phene, said: “London desperately needs residential space and it’s just crazy to have a ban like this.”