CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Not another luxury flat! Frank Skinner joins fight to save Magdala pub’s function room

'Ruth Ellis' tavern in Hampstead remains closed and unsold

31 January, 2019 — By Tom Foot

ROOM 101 comedian Frank Skinner is among Hampstead neighbours who have united in opposition to the transformation of a famous pub’s function room into “yet another luxury flat”.

The popular comic and “Three Lions” chart-topper –– who has been teetotal for more than 30 years – said it was “vital” to fight for the upstairs room of Magdala Tavern, in South Hill Park, South End Green.

The New Journal revealed earlier this month that a planning application has been filed at the Town Hall in which it is claimed that the changes need to be made because the pub – which has been on the market for more than a year – is not selling.

Potential buyers were put off by its “undesirable” function room, paperwork submitted to the council says.

The Magdala is famous in British history for being the scene of a shooting which led to the hanging of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK. It has been shut since 2016.

In a written objection to the proposals – which need Camden’s planning consent before work can begin – Mr Skinner and his long-term partner, Cathy Mason, say: “I object to this being turned from a valuable community asset into yet another luxury flat. I think it is vital to hold onto and fight for these community spaces. En­couraging communities to gather massively buffers mental health problems so please let’s hang onto these spaces!”

In 2017, Mr Skinner was one of the biggest names in comedy to support the Heads Together “conversation about mental health” spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Magdala supporters and residents’ groups say the function room was a focal point of South End Green society and was well used for community events, shows and meetings.

But developer Mulberry One Capital has submitted an application to transform the function room into a two-bedroom flat. Proceeds from the sale of the flat could be used to refurbish the kitchen and bin area and make it a more attractive acquisition for landlords, the application says.

The application, lodged with Camden Council on behalf of Magdala-owner Ori Calif, insists the proposals have won support from neighbourhood groups. It says that, following several meetings with the community, “residents were very positive and enthusiastic about the plans”, adding: “It was accepted that an isolated function room on the first floor of the building was no longer desirable on the open market and was one of the reasons why the Magdala did not seem to be selling.”

Ruth Ellis

However, more than 70 objections have been filed since the New Journal ran a story a fortnight ago, including one from Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, which “strongly objects to the proposal to convert the first-floor function room to a two-bedroom flat”.

Mulberry One’s application says: “The first-floor residential unit proposed would be spacious, of a high quality and will be supplemented with a number of mitigation measures to ensure that it will not prejudice the continuing operation of the Magdala Tavern.”

A decision on the application is expected in a few weeks.

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