A millionaire property developer accused of ‘wanton vandalism’ of a historic pub has been ordered to restore it to its former glory.
Charlie Southall, who also works as a photographer, bought the 150-year-old Montreal Arms in Brighton after it closed during lockdown.
After purchasing the property ‘on a whim’ he temporarily offered it to house Ukrainians, but backtracked after residents questioned his motives when he started a fundraiser for £85,000.
The 43-year-old then hired a team of builders who started hacking off the glazed green tiles from the front of the locally listed pub.
Residents and councillors were furious and branded the developer a ‘vandal’ and a ‘spoilt child.’
The council issued an emergency stop order to prevent further damage to the heritage tiles as it is a locally listed building.
Brighton and Hove City Council said it means that Mr Southall has one year to reinstate all the glazed ceramic tiles that were damaged or removed.
Although they have confirmed that there has been an appeal lodged against the enforcement notice, they have not confirmed who was behind it.
Charlie Southall (pictured), 43, was branded a vandal by residents and ordered by the council to restore the Brighton pub he owns after he had historic green tiles hacked off (pictured handing out a leaflet while the tiles are being removed)
The Montreal Arms in Brighton had a third of its historic green tiles drilled of by the new property owner before the council was able to stop it
The building (pictured in 2020) had been a pub for 150 years, with the tiles dating back to the 1920s, until it closed during the pandemic
The pub was built during a boom period of Victorian construction in Brighton in the 1870s and was the centre of a bustling community.
The tiles date from around 1927 when work was carried out following the merger of the Portsmouth United brewery and Brighton’s Rock brewery.
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: ‘This is terrible. Utter vandalism of beautiful Montreal Arms in my Brighton constituency. This absolutely cannot go unchallenged.’
Resident Ruth Boyd said: ‘The fact that he’s chosen to attack the antique tiles, the most visible part of the building, feels like a petty and bitter attack on the community.’
James Elliott said: ‘This is just wanton vandalism. He has attempted to destroy the history and value of the pub so that he can push through whatever plans he has for the building.’
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas denounced the ‘vandalism’ of the pub
Mr Southall, who also runs Dragonfly Digital Video Services, bought the pub after it was put up for sale for £450,000 following its closure during the Covid lockdown.
Nine days after collecting the keys, he decided to offer it for use as a free co-living space for refugee women and children fleeing the war in Ukraine.
But when the property developer asked the local community to crowdfund a £85,000 renovation residents began to question his motives.
In a heated exchanged during a public meeting, residents accused him of offering the property as accommodation for refugees in order to push through a change of use with city planners.
Days later Mr Southall withdrew his offer saying in a video: ‘Some were personal attacks. Some even tried to claim I was rotten at the core and, you know what, it worked.
He added: ‘I’m announcing today this project will not be going ahead. It’s over. There won’t be any women or children refugees in that old pub.
‘I think some people need to take a step back and look at what they’ve done.’
Soon after a team of builders arrived outside the pub with a drill and proceeded to remove the glazed tiles from the exterior.
Furious residents gathered in the street and tried to stop the builders removing any more tiles and, amid angry scenes, the police were called.
In just over six hours, the team drilled off around one third of the listed green tiles before the council ordered issued an emergency stop order.
The extensive damage could cost many thousands if Mr Southall is required to replace them
Now Mr Southall has been hit with an enforcement notice ordering him to reinstate all the tiles to the original condition.
Resident Harry Magee said: ‘The tiles are called green faize tiles. They reflect different colours from different angles and are made of lead dyes.
‘Each one will be handmade, some of the difficult corner ones will work out at a £1,000 each! This job is going to cost the minimum of £90,000.’
Resident, Martha Gunn, said: ‘This depredation must be repaired properly and the original glorious detail restored. I am at a loss to understand how anyone could have committed this act of vandalism?’
James Elliott said: ‘People were rightly concerned about the long-term plans for the building but when he was challenged he got very angry. ‘Then he turned up with some guys armed with an almighty drill and proceeded to ruin a pub that has stood here for 150 years. He’s an absolute disgrace and he’s behaved like a spoilt child.’
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: ‘The Montreal Arms is a locally listed building. This means that is has been identified as a heritage asset that it important to the local area and its people.
‘The enforcement notice requires the reinstatement of glazed ceramic tiles to all elevations where they have been removed or damaged as a consequence of the unauthorised work. The timescale for compliance is one year.’
Now an appeal has been lodged against an enforcement notice requiring the replacement of the historic green tiles – which effectively puts that deadline on hold until a planning inspector has their say.
In a statement Mr Southall, of Brighton, blamed the previous owner for damaging the green tiles beyond repair. He said that as the pub was only ‘locally’ listed building he did not need to apply for listed building consent to change the property.
He added: ‘The new property owner has exactly the same permitted development rights as any other property owner in the area, and it is entirely lawful for external features to be altered or removed. This is a privately owned property.’
He asked residents: ‘Please respect the legal rights of the current property owner.’