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Kentish Town pub turned into a shop had ‘not been supported by community’

Nisa developers tell planning hearing that bar was 'not viable'

03 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Pub protestors stage a demonstration outside the Leighton Arms pub last summer

THE future of a Kentish Town pub – which was shut down and turned into a Nisa convenience supermarket without council permission – is set to be decided by a Whitehall planning inspector.

The Town Hall has refused to grant consent for the switch at the Leighton Arms pub and developers this week began laying out their case at an appeal hearing.

Planning inspector Diane Lewis must decide whether the building can continue to be used as a Nisa Local shop, or whether it should be returned to use as a bar.

The pub closed down in March 2016 ahead of a refurbishment of the upstairs but customers believed that it would open again after the building work was complete.

Lawyer David Forsdick QC, representing owner Martin Cramer, told the hearing at the Crowndale Centre that his client’s case hung on whether it could be shown that the pub was still viable business and if any publican was interested in running it.

He added: “The basic facts here are stark and no contrary evidence or analysis is provided by the council or any third party. It was patently obvious the Leighton Arms was not well supported by the local community.”

He said this lack of support for the pub meant changing it to a shop without seeking council permission for a change of use was acceptable. Opponents to the switch say the pub was hampered when two houses were built on the beer garden and the upper floors were converted into flats.

Kentish Town ward Labour councillor Jenny Headlam-Wells said the owners, when they won permission in 2015 to build homes on upper floors, had said the plan would “ensure its longevity for the local community”.

A statement from residents group the Torriano Cottages Association said the shop threatened the viability of other stores nearby and the Leighton Arms had been an “important amenity” in an area that had lost other pubs.

It added: “We are strongly of the view that the actions of the developer have resulted in the loss of a significant community asset,” and would set a dangerous precedent.

Placard-waving protests were held in front of the building last summer.

Speaking in favour of the owners, Adrian Paterson told the inspector he had lived close to the Leighton for 40 years.

He said he believed the new shop provided a welcome service and that “I do not think the pub could be considered as the corner stone of the community. There are a number of other pubs people can use”.

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