Concerns over Belsize launderette on England’s Lane which could be replaced by juice bar
- Credit: Archant
A longstanding Belsize Park launderette is under threat of being replaced by a juice bar.
Launderette on England's Lane will be closed down and taken over by Artichoke, which has a fruit and vegetable store in Hampstead, if a planning application submitted to Camden Council is approved.
The application was administered by Pegasus Group, which claims the development will bring "vitality" to the area.
It also said the impact on customers will be minimal as they can "simply use" the dry cleaners opposite, yet the owner of Chequers told the Ham&High it could not provide the same service.
Concerns have been raised over the 150 families at nearby hostel England's Lane Residence where there are no washing facilities.
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Celia King, 60, who has run the launderette for 15 years, says customers come in all the way from Golders Green and Archway, yet she has been kept in the dark about the plans.
"Even if I wanted to look for a job I couldn't because I haven't been told anything," she said.
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"Customers are constantly asking me questions but I can't answer them.
"It would be a big, big, big loss if the launderette went. I don't think there is anyone that hasn't used it at some stage!
"We have carers that come in here. We have nurses that have regular work done every week. We have all the cafes that use it.
"The hostel at the top of the road. I don't know where they'll go because they are in here every day."
Hostel resident Ubah Ali, 32, who lives with her son, 7, and grandmother, 84, regularly uses the launderette and says she has formed a close connection with Celia.
"For us at the hostel the most important thing is having a roof over our head," she said, "but this launderette is the second most important after that.
"It is a rich area but it is poor people that are going to be affected.
"I use the faciities at least two times a week. It is very important because we do not have a washing machine in the hostel.
"There are other families in the hostel who have four or five kids and they use the launderette at least five times a week.
"Imagine if this facility closes. Where are they going to go? It is going to affect lives.
"They did not realise that the launderette was going to close. I had to tell them. There will be a huge impact on people in the local community."
Ubah continued: "There are kids at the hostel that go to school every week. What are they going to do if they cannot wash their clothes? They are not going to wash them with their hands.
"We are not here because we want to be. We are here because we have no choice. We do not need any more juice bars."
Seiwa Cunningham, 58, of Haverstock Hill, labelled England's Lane 'cafe lane' and claimed the street was losing its character.
She said: "When I moved here this was a quirky street but we're now losing that individualistic flavour.
"I find it really upsetting what they're doing here. This place needs to stay. We are losing that village feel.
"You used to know everyone's name. What are we going to do with a juice bar?"
Belsize councillor Luisa Porritt, who lives near the launderette, commented: "This planning application has crept in under the radar, without the local community or ward councillors being made aware of it.
"Even the manager of the launderette only saw the application for the first time on Monday. This isn't good enough.
"For the 150 Camden families living in the England's Lane Residence, the risk of the launderette closing is another blow.
"The residents already face uncertainty about their futures, as the lease on their building is not due to be renewed by the council. "They are now at risk of having nowhere to wash their clothes because they rely on use of the launderette and do not have access to any on-site alternative.
"The council must do what it can to preserve the launderette's status as a business which is valued by the local community and should ensure that residents are properly consulted as part of any planning process."
A Camden Council spokesperson said: "This application is open to comments until Sunday February 2 and we encourage residents to have their say." Artichoke have been approached for comment.
For a documentary about the launderette by local film-maker Russell Bentley, please click here.