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‘It’s made my day’ – New Journal tells manager launderette is saved

Artichoke pull out of deal to turn wash service into a greengrocers'

16 January, 2020 — By Samantha Booth

FAMILIES living in temporary accommodation in Belsize Park have expressed their relief that imminent proposals to convert a launderette have been dropped.

Family-run business Artichoke, which has a greengrocers in Heath Street, Hampstead, had submitted an application to the Town Hall to convert the longstanding ­laundry service in England’s Lane into a shop.

A petition had been launched locally calling for the launderette to stay open. Concerns were expressed by residents at a nearby homeless hostel, England’s Lane Residence, which is due to close next year, saying 130 families rely on it to do their laundry.

However, a spokesman for the 40-year-old business called the New Journal on Tuesday to say they had called their agents to pull out.

A spokesman for Artichoke said: “We pulled out as we felt that we were fighting a fight we knew nothing about. We thought the shop was closing down. We are not a big Starbucks trying to push a little business out. We support small businesses, we are a small business.”

Reports had suggested it may become a juice bar, but the spokesman clarified it would have been a greengrocers selling fruit and veg. A juice bar forms a small part of their business in Hampstead Village, he said.

They are considering looking for another property in England’s Lane, the spokesman said, adding: “If the launderette stays that’s even better.”

The launderette is listed on the Willmott’s website for a lease of £60,000 per annum. The New Journal has reached out to Willmott’s to find out what will happen next, but had not received a response at the time of going to print. Some launderette users said they only learned about the possible switch after reading a New Journal report earlier this month.

Mother-of-one Ubah Ali, who has lived in the England’s Lane Residence since 2011, had been urging the Town Hall to think of them when looking at the application.

She said: “I’m relieved. I’m glad we’ve done what we’ve done. It’s about community and the connection we have with each other there and how important it is for people who live in the area and at the hostel as it would be a big burden on them without it.”

Olga Jevina, who lives in a small room with her 10-month-old daughter, said having to travel elsewhere to do her laundry would put her under even more financial pressure, living on just £35 a week currently. The 33-year-old said: “I’m so happy. My baby has to be clean, I have to change her clothes about five times a day and I cannot wash them properly in my room.”

Celia King, the launderette manager of 16 years, said the New Journal “made my day” when we told her the news on Tuesday. She said the launderette is used by many local people, cafés and shops on the main road. “The issue will be if it’s going to be put on the market now – can you put it to stay as a launderette? Then there will be no issue.”

Russell Bentley, who made a documentary about the launderette in 2017, and Irit Reed, who runs neighbouring café Chamomile, also swung their weight behind the campaign.

Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat councillor in Belsize ward, said: “My ward colleague Tom Simon and I would like to thank Artichoke for withdrawing their application and recognising the social value of the launderette on England’s Lane to the local area, particularly the residents living in the nearby temporary accommodation who have nowhere else to go to wash their clothes. “We wish the applicant success in finding a new more appropriate site to open their business.”

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said: “I think it is a real shame that we are even discussing the potential closure of the England’s Lane launderette. “I spoke recently to the manager, Celia, who has done an amazing job over many years serving the local community, and I know that there are many people who support the continued operation of a truly independent local business.”

She added: “Not only has it been a local fixture for as long as I can remember, it also provides an absolutely vital service to local people – including many of those who live in the England’s Lane Residence who don’t have access to their own facilities.”

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