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Pub campaign wins as plan for flat above famous Magdala bar is thrown out

Frank Skinner was among objectors to removal of upstairs function room

15 March, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A DEVELOPER’S plan to replace part of a 150-year-old pub with a two-bed flat has been rejected after a community campaign.

The Town Hall has ruled the proposed changes to Magdala Tavern pub in South Hill Park, Hampstead, would alter its character.

The pub has been closed since 2016, but neighbours and former customers hoped it will one day return to its former glory.

Developer Mulberry One Capital had claimed the “undesirable” upstairs function room was the reason no operator could be found to run it. Selling off a flat upstairs could fund a revamp of the kitchen that would make it more attractive to buyers, the developer claimed.

Comedian Frank Skinner, who has been teetotal for 30 years, was among dozens of people living nearby who had filed objections to the change. On Friday, council planners said the changes would “materially change the character” of the pub, which is listed an asset of community value (ACV), and compromise its “long-term viability and future”.

Frank Skinner

Mulberry had failed to show how the flat would be protected from noise and “odours” from the downstairs pub, the ruling added, and in the absence of a legal agreement that the new flat would be car-free, it would “likely to contribute unacceptably to parking congestion”.

The council’s decision notice said the function room had staged birthday parties, writing workshops, theatre productions, wedding parties and choir rehearsals, as well as weekly quiz nights, comedy club, children’s classes and Christmas roasts.

Neil Titley from the Friends of Magdala Tavern, a group of drinkers who now go to King William IV, said: “It’s excellent news. Quite a few groups got involved. The point about it is that separating the function room from the pub was never going to work. “I am surprised they even thought that it would be a good idea.”

The Magdala Tavern is famously where Ruth Ellis – the last woman to be hanged in this country – shot her controlling lover in cold blood.

The pub, in South Hill Park, was constructed in 1868. Mr Skinner and his wife Cathy Mason, who live near to the pub, said in their joint objection to the Town Hall: “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,”

Ruth Ellis

The company owned by developer Ori Calif, whose registered address is above the pub in South End Road, had said it had spent a year trying to find an operator to run the pub downstairs.

It claimed that operators had not wanted to take the pub on with the function room but the pub’s former manager said she believed the real reason for lack of interest was the high rent from the owners.

Mulberry’s application said “residents were very positive and enthusiastic about the plans”.

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