Bake-a-boo owner urges objectors to halt protests over plan to convert cake shop
Neighbours fear Mill Lane will lose retail appeal with smaller shop unit
30 March, 2017 — By Richard Osley
The Bake-A-Boo building has stood unused for almost a year
A CAKE-SELLER who swapped careers to become a nurse says the Town Hall should allow parts of her old bakery to be converted into a new flat – despite objections from neighbours.
Zoe Berkeley said she “felt sad” every time she drove by the old Bake-A-Boo shop in West Hampstead, which has been closed for nearly a year, and that she did not want it to stand derelict for much longer.
Objectors want Camden Council to refuse permission for a new maisonette flat at the building because it will cut back on the space left for retail use, issuing warnings that Mill Lane is being stripped of its shopping appeal.
But Ms Berkeley wrote on her “Life After Bake-A-Boo” blog: “The property has sat empty, with the windows frosted and the old gate still hanging on the door. It’s derelict and abandoned and every time I drive past it I feel sad. As much as an office isn’t helpful to the street, neither is an empty building. None of us know what it will end up being in there, but it will have a shopfront and it will also be a flat underneath, which most of the other shopfronts along that parade also have.”
How Mill Lane looked when Bake-A-Boo was open
She added: “Empty shop, or filled shop? Can we really be so picky about what comes there or not?”
The New Journal reported last year how Ms Berkeley, known as Boo, had set up her bakery and tea room when she was 24 and spent 10 years working on the business before deciding on a change of direction and becoming a nurse.
“I know that lots of people are very upset about these proposed plans, but I don’t think they have really thought about the deeper impact and they are forgetting how bloody hard it is to thrive on Mill Lane,” she said, before telling objectors: “One more office or one more flat isn’t going to take away from what Mill Lane has to offer. Instead of putting energy into fighting this, I suggest perhaps putting that energy into getting yourself down to Mill Lane, having a coffee or buying yourself something nice.” C
Council planners are currently reviewing the application – and the objections.
James Earl, from the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Development Forum, said: “The proposed ground-floor employment space – at just 22 metres square – is so small that it is unlikely to be viable as a commercial space or as a retail unit.”
Adrian D’Enrico, who lives nearby, told the Town Hall: “The very diversity that attracts people to the area is being diminished. There is prior evidence of retail to residential conversion in this area so I’m sure the application will sail through – but it’s another loss to the vibrancy of the local area for the sole purpose of short-term profit.”
Another neighbour added: “It is so important that commercial premises on Mill Lane are retained, and for businesses that will benefit local residents – unlike a vaping shop or tanning salon.”
The unit’s landlords said Mill Lane was a “secondary shopping parade” and said in the planning application that many shops in the stretch had already been similarly converted.