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Highgate café owner in plea to developers: ‘Don’t ruin almost-rural idyll of Swain’s Lane by replacing shopping parade’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 June 2014 | UPDATED: 13:29 30 June 2014

Alex Dudnic is the owner of Kalendar cafe and Gustus restaurant, which are directly next to the proposed development of Swains Lane shopping parade. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Alex Dudnic is the owner of Kalendar cafe and Gustus restaurant, which are directly next to the proposed development of Swains Lane shopping parade. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Picture this well-known road close to Hampstead Heath and instantly the image of friends relaxing in the sunshine outside a bustling café comes to mind.

But the almost-rural idyll of Swain’s Lane would be ruined if plans to redevelop the popular Highgate shopping parade are approved, according to the owner of the much-loved café Kalendar.

The business is not part of the crumbling one-storey parade that has been at the centre of a planning battle over the last 12 years.

But Alex Dudnic, of Hornsey Lane, Highgate, said that lengthy construction works so close to his business will ruin its cosmopolitan ambiance.

The proposed three-storey building would also block sunlight from reaching the terrace outside, he added.

“My takings will probably go down big time,” said 45-year-old Mr Dudnic, 45, who also owns the adjoining Gustus pizzeria.

“It’s possible I will close down. I wouldn’t be surprised because the majority of Swain’s Lane will have to close for about six months.

“I hope not, because this is my livelihood.”

Mr Dudnic, who opened Kalendar in 2003, is also the chairman of the Swain’s Lane Traders’ Association and wrote to Camden Council last week to object to proposals to knock down the parade and replace it with a three-storey red-brick building, which would drop to two storeys at the corner with Highgate West Hill.

“It will take away all the sun, that’s a big point,” he said.

“It’s a lovely sun spot in the afternoon and nobody is going to sit outside while there are people drilling.”

Mr Dudnic, who split the café five weeks ago to create Gustus pizzeria, has asked the parade’s owner, the Earl of Listowel, to consider restoring the existing buildings rather than demolishing them.

But Mickey Shamlian, who runs Mickey’s Fruiterers in the half-empty shopping parade, said that a “light-touch” renovation is not an option.

“Something needs to be done,” said the 63-year-old, who has worked in Swain’s Lane for 22 years. “It’s stressful for the shopkeepers because we don’t have a lease.”

Lord Listowel has been fighting to develop the parade for 12 years but each proposal has been met with fierce criticism from the community.

The latest plans are for 12 private flats to be created along with eight small shops designed for independent businesses.

A spokesman for Lord Listowel said: ”We cannot ignore that the parade is in need of enhancement. Other retailers and the local community recognise the need for improvements and the earl has been working with the tenants and the community as the scheme design and timetable have progressed.

“We appreciate there will be some disruption for tenants and other retailers which we will seek to minimise, but the end result will be an improved Swain’s Lane which will be more attractive to customers in the future.”

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