A FORMER pub landlord is furious at plans to turn his old establishment into shops after the council barred him from converting the upstairs into flats.

Michael Adams claims “double standards” are at play as in 2002, he was told the Cock Tavern, in High Street, could not be altered as it sits in a conservation area.

But 14 years on from his meeting with planning officers, proposals to shut it for good and turn it into shops were rubber stamped.

The 79-year-old says if his idea had been approved, the pub would never have had to close down.

He said: “I was told by a council planning officer that it would always have to remain a pub.

“I asked if I could build up the back into flats and he said no, it is a conservation area and everything has to stay the same.

“It is double standards. I am quite upset about it.

“I had to pay £20,000 towards the refurbishment. I might as well have got the £20,000 and tear it up.”

Mr Adams was given an EU funded grant of £126,000 to refurbish the historical building and had to contribute £20,000 towards it himself.

The pub closed on Sunday, August 28, and plans to convert it into retail units have been approved by the council.

There has been a coach house, tavern or pub operating on the site continuously since 1747.

Jean Holt from Walthamstow said the pub was part of her life and groups of friends will be broken up because of its closure.

The 74-year-old worked as a barmaid at the pub 40 years’ ago and had been a regular customer there ever since.

She said: “I think it is terrible. It is part of your life.

“I used to go for a couple of pints with friends there after work.

“I met one Irish man today who had been going there for 30 years and he started crying.

“I can get over it but it is the old people it is very sad for. It is breaking up their small group.”

Stephen Price, who was landlord of the pub for the past four and a half years, said he was given three months’ notice by the owners telling him the pub would be closing.

The 53-year-old said: “It makes me feel gutted because we had a lot of loyal customers.

“There were a hell of a lot of tears on our last day.

“It was not just a pub, it was a meeting place for the community and somewhere they can discuss their problems.

“If someone didn’t come in one day the others would know something is wrong and they would go to their house.

“I would have like more time but that wasn’t given and there is not much I can do about it.

“Why Walthamstow needs more retail is beyond me.”

A spokesman for the council said even though the pub is in a conservation area it was not an asset of community value so there is no legal protection against change of its use.

He said: “Under planning regulations pubs are designated as an A4 use within the Use Class Order 1987 (as amended).

“Within this order it is possible to change a property from a higher to lower use without the need for planning permission.

“This is what the owner of the Cock Tavern sought to do by changing it from A4 pub use to A1 retail.

“Decisions in these cases are made by law, not by planning judgement, and as it was deemed to be lawful and it was therefore approved.

“An application in 2002 to extend the property and convert it into flats would have required planning permission.”