Fears are growing that a York pub is about to be demolished

Workers from demolition and plant hire firm N Jagger and Son at the Magnet. Photograph: Mark Warters

Concerns are growing that this once-thriving pub could soon be torn down.

Workers from demolition and plant hire specialists N Jagger & Son arrived at the Magnet on Osbaldwick Lane on Saturday (September 8).

It follows the sale of the 1930s pub to an undisclosed buyer.

Witnesses said the workers spent hours cutting down trees and shrubs to the rear of the site and boarding the building up.

Plan fell through

The inside of the Magnet
The Magnet, previously owned by Enterprise Inns, closed as a pub in April. It followed the departure of the landlord who had run the pub for 36 years.

It was then put up for sale through property agents Barry Crux as going concern.

Although it was sold, the buyer has not been disclosed. There is no sign of it being renovated and reopened as a pub. And no planning application has been submitted to City of York Council to apply for change of use.

Independent Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters has been monitoring what’s been happening to the empty pub since.

He was working with an interested party who wanted to buy The Magnet and redevelop it as a pub for the local community but sadly that plan fell through.

No paperwork

The pub retains many original 1930s features
Pubs have more protection from demolition than other properties.

Changes to the Neighbourhood Planning Act mean that, since May 2017, planning permission is required before any pub in England can be demolished.

The pub’s future is uncertain
In answer to an inquiry by Cllr Warters a few days ago, a council official told him: “There would need to be at least an application for prior approval of the demolition.

“I have looked through and I can find no record of such an application or one for a planning permission.”

But as Cllr Warters says, “Why employ a demolition firm to do these works if the intention is not to demolish?”

The Magnet, which retains a lot of its original features, is on the York Local List of buildings important to the community.

It was once a thriving community pub

Pub protection officer at York Camra Nick Love said:

  • We will be monitoring the situation closely because no application for demolition has been made or approved by the relevant authorities.

    If the new owners are under the misapprehension that they can demolish the building and apply for retrospective permission they are very much mistaken.

    We will campaign vigorously to make them rebuild the building brick by brick – which has happened elsewhere is the UK when heritage pubs have been illegally demolished.

    The Magnet is a heritage pub that cannot be allowed to be replaced by a nondescript housing block or complex.

    Regardless of whether it stays as a pub or not we have to safeguard York’s heritage assets – as evidenced by the decision of the government inspector to reject the application for demolition of the Carlton Taver by Marstons and Crown Care.

Demise of ‘absolutely thriving’ pub

The Magnet was built in 1934 by John Smith’s Brewery under their chief architect, Sir Bertram Wilson.

According to the York Camra book Historic Pubs In And Around York, few pubs of its type escaped modern internal refits, losing their original character in the process.

“Thus, where any significant internal fabric still survives, it is a cause for celebration – and the Magnet is certainly the best survivor of its type in York,” the book records.

“The snug has its original seating and is unaltered apart from the addition of a small corner bar counter. The Bar retains bench seating and even the altered main Lounge has original woodwork.”

Cllr Mark Warters said:

  • This is so sad because it was an estate pub, a community pub that was absolutely thriving in the early eighties when I first started going in.

    If the rumours are true of a student residential operator buying the place to knock down and rebuild as flats / student units is true then this could not have been a worse outcome for the local community and is a sad indictment of the ongoing situation in areas surrounding the two universities.