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Owners’ pub protection appeal

Company go to tribunal in bid to overturn building’s ‘community asset’ status

10 March, 2016 — By Ella Jessel

THE owners of a famous Belsize Park pub are appealing against a decision to list the entire building as an “asset of community value” – the protection status which has been used by the council to block the closure of popular pubs. The Sir Richard Steele in Haverstock Hill, often known simply as “The Steele’s”, was given the ACV in May last year after being nominated by local residents and the Belsize Community Association. But at a tribunal hearing last Thursday, the venue’s current owners, Faucet Inn, argued that the upper floors, which are currently used as function rooms, and its ancillary areas should be stripped of the protection. Numerous bids to convert the pub’s upstairs function room into both flats and a hotel have been thrown out by the Town Hall since 2014, with planning chiefs citing the loss of a “community asset” as one of their reasons. The pub chain also own the Dartmouth Arms in York Rise, a pub which has been closed for months while the upstairs floors are turned into flats. They also previously ran the Black Cap in Camden Town. To the surprise of regulars who nominated the pub for the listing, Faucet Inn told the tribunal that the company had lodged a fresh planning application that morning, again to turn the upstairs floors of The Steele’s into flats. Conservative councillor Claire-Louise Leyland said: “We are a little bit concerned about the way this has evolved. We’re very much at this stage wanting to uphold the ACV listing because that’s what the community wanted. We’re hoping the judge agrees it’s an asset.” The upstairs floors have been hired for parties and were previously used as a comedy club. In the 1990s, The Steele’s was known as a celebrity hangout with Chris Evans and Oasis often seen at the bar. Steve Cox, from Faucet Inn, said: “We don’t believe the ACV should be listed across the entire property. The current listing covers the whole pub and external areas and we didn’t think that was appropriate. Contrary to popular belief, we are keen to retain the pub – the business plan has always been that – if we can release the value of the flats upstairs.” The outcome of the hearing will be decided in six weeks.

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