The Phené Arms
The pub is one of the oldest in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, built in 1850 for Dr John Samuel Phené LLD, the celebrated Victorian eccentric and world traveler, who came to the notice of Queen Victoria for his campaign to plant trees in the streets of London and whose family owned a large part of Chelsea until the late 1940s.
There are some photos of Dr Phené in the RBKC Library Time Machine: Dr Phené in his garden.
Ongoing attempts to convert the Phené Arms to residential use resulted in closure of the pub for several years, which meant that the Philanderers had to start drinking away from home as well as playing away. This sorry state of affairs came to an end in 2010, when our spiritual home was reborn as The Phené. You can read more about this below.
The Phené Philanderers Cricket Club
The cricket club rose from the ashes of the Phené Philanderers rugby team in 1968 as they turned to cricket as a less health-destructive pursuit which also provided the maximum opportunity for our two main hobbies - drinking and womanising.
Please see the Phené President for Life and Beyond's 1992 essay on the early years:
25 Years of Phené Philandering
The Phené Arms closed, but then re-opened
The Phené Arms was closed in 2006: a very sad day.
Time called on George Best's local, London Evening Standard, 29 December 2006.
In 2007 planning applications were submitted for change of use and conversion from vacant Public House to a single dwelling house, (PP/07/01662 and PP/07/01663), although both were Withdrawn by Applicant later that year.
The October 2007 Newsletter of the Chelsea Society reported:
The Phene Arms, which has now been closed for some time, is still at risk even though the owner, RAB Pension Trust, withdrew its applications on 25 July for the change of use and conversion from a pub to a house, including a major extension to the basement and ground floor.
The applicant withdrew because the Council objected to the proposed change of use.
This is good news - it is a sign that the Council is now taking a much tougher line on the loss of pubs - but the applicant is now exploring alternative options. The threat has not gone away.
But then in June 2010, to the unbridled joy of the Philanderers, the Phené Arms re-opened, now named simply The Phené, which is what we had always called it anyway.
A dozen Phené players and wives attended the inaugural drinks party on 21 June 2010. If only it were that easy to get eleven players to turn out for a match...
The photo above, which was taken by Dafydd Jones, the official photographer at the event, shows the Phené President for Life and Beyond et al. at the party.
Oh no! Not again! On 29 July 2011, barely more than a year since The Phené had re-opened, planning application PP/11/02421 was registered for Change of use to single family dwelling, basement extensions and external alterations. And on 6 October a new planning application for Change of use to single family dwelling and provision for waste storage, PP/11/03352, was added.
Phené's Best, Da Steeps Speaks, 09 December 2011: a blog post about The Phené which contains some history and current issues.
Excellent news for the Phené Philanderers: following the Planning Applications Committee meeting on 6 March 2012, both the applications for change of use of the Phené Arms (PP/11/02421 & PP/11/03352) have been decided, and Planning Permission/Consent has been refused:
"The loss of this historic public house to residential use would be damaging to the value and significance of this heritage asset, and would cause harm to the character, identity and distinctiveness of the conservation area...".
The April 2012 Newsletter of the Chelsea Society has a focus on Planning. The Phené is mentioned in the section Pubs - where next? There is also a reference to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Public Houses Consultation on whether to change the Core Strategy to try to resist the loss of public houses within the Borough.
But wait... On 11 June 2012, the planning dept. of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea sent out a notification of appeals re. PP/11/03352 & PP/11/02421. Comments in writing should be sent directly to the Planning Inspectorate by 9 July, and all submissions may be viewed at the Town Hall after 16 July.
You're barred... from turning George Best's local into home, London Evening Standard, 05 July 2012: the London Evening Standard reported that the Kensington & Chelsea council is to try to stem the tide of pub closures by putting a stop to their conversion into multi-million-pound houses, but also said that the pub had closed, which we can confirm is not true.
Morgan & Clarke Newsletter, Pub Restaurant Advisor, 12 September 2012:
... A pivotal case is the Phené Arms in Chelsea. Morgan & Clarke are acting as Expert Evidence for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea at the Planning Inquiry which will be held next month which has fundamental issues being watched very closely by a large number of other planning authorities nationwide. Such a great deal is riding on the outcome of this case that CAMRA will be reviewing their legal position on current planning regulations following the case itself.
Please see also the Campaign for Real Ale Planning and Local Pubs Campaigns pages.
We need not give into the 'inevitable' demise of the British pub. A successful campaign to save one of London's historic hostelries shows local democracy in action can work, Mail Online, 19 September 2012: Kathy Gyngell's blog reports that the appeal against the refusal of planning permission to redevelop the Cross Keys has been denied, but that the fate of The Phené still hangs in the balance.
The Save The Phené online petition in support of the Council decision to refuse planning consent has about 1,300 signatures, including several famous names. The petition page includes a letter of support from the wife of the landlord of The Phené Arms for the 25 years up to 1993. The Save The Phené approach is similar to the successful Save The Cross Keys campaign, but ran out of steam just before the final day of the Public Inquiry.
The Public Inquiry to hear planning appeals re. PP/11/03352 & PP/11/02421 began on 9 October in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8 and was scheduled to last for 3 days. The Inspector adjourned the appeal and scheduled an additional day: 25 October in the Chelsea Old Town Hall (just 5 minutes walk from The Phené Arms).
Battle for the boozer... Hugh Grant joins fight to save the Phené Arms, London Evening Standard, 25 October 2012: the Evening Standard reports at length on the Phené planning inquiry and on London pub closures in general.
A brief report on the Design Society website under a similar title - Hugh Grant Joins Local Residents To Oppose Redevelopment Plans in Chelsea - says At design et al for the most part we applaud and celebrate regeneration. ... These projects however are celebrated within buildings that needed a new life and purpose for the twenty first century; they have been abandoned, discarded and left to deteriorate unlike the Phené Arms...
Public Inquiry as pub turning over £27k a week proposed as £20 million home, Decisions Decisions Decisions, 29 October 2012: a post about The Phené Arms in Andrew Lainton's urban planning blog.
The Public Inquiry was finally concluded after the second extension day, 5 November 2012, in the Chelsea Old Town Hall. Now we await the Inspector's decision...
Moving Into the Corner Pub, Wall Street Journal, 13 December 2012: plans to convert the Phené into a private home even made news over the pond. The article includes a quote from Phené Philanderers stalwart, Derek Elcock.
The Planning Inspector finally published his report on 16 January 2013:
"Decision 1. The appeals are dismissed."
The Phené Arms has been saved and can remain as the home of the Phené Philanderers.
Pub gets another round as stars call time on developer's plans, London Evening Standard, 17 January 2013. Well, we thought it was the Planning Inspector rather than stars, but the Evening Standard did at least publish a report on the dismissal of the appeal.
If a pub isn't a community asset what is?, BD Online, 18 January 2013 (registration required). Amanda Baillieu's blog post on BD Online laments that The Planning Inspectorate has saved a Chelsea pub from redevelopment, but for all the wrong reasons. ...the Inspector did dismiss Bourne's appeal, but he waived aside the pub's role as a community asset citing instead the local conservation area...
The Phené Arms has therefore not been listed as an 'asset of community value' under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Stars sign up to save George Best's local, Protz On Beer, 19 January 2013. It's those stars again.
The Phené Has Been Sold
Best of times extended on the Kings Road, The Times, 1 April 2013. The Times reports that The Phené has been sold to the City Pub Company.
This is wonderful news - the Phené Arms now has an owner that actually wants to run pubs. The City Pub Company (East) has also located its Head Office at The Phené.
Residents toast rescue of historic pub the Phené Arms from £20m property plan, Evening Standard, 3 April 2013. The Evening Standard quotes City Pub Company finance director James Watson: We try to maintain pub traditions. It's a landmark pub, it's got a great history, a great location and it fits in with our company profile of traditional pubs.
New owner of The Phené Arms vows to keep it a quintessentially British pub, Kensington & Chelsea Chronicle, 3 April 2013. The Chronicle reports: The future of one of Chelsea's much loved pubs has finally been secured after being bought by experienced investors in British pubs. There are extensive quotes from CAMRA and various City Pub Company (East) directors, including Chairman David Bruce: We are dedicated to keeping The Phené an iconic quintessentially British pub.
Phené rises as resi development plans shot down, Prime Resi, 3 April 2013. Prime Resi recaps on the background and refers to the Evening Standard and Kensington & Chelsea Chronicle articles.
That's what we wanted to hear. Now the Philanderers can really relax - ideally with a pint at the Phené.