Belsize Village Streatery made permanent despite objections

Belsize Village's streatery. Picture: Belsize Village Business Association

Belsize Village's streatery. Picture: Belsize Village Business Association - Credit: Archant

Belsize Village's "streatery" licence has been made permanent, despite concerns raised by some residents.

The outdoor dining area in Belsize Terrace will remain a fixture following a Camden licensing committee meeting on Thursday (February 11).

The al fresco project started in the summer of 2020 to give a lift to struggling businesses in the hospitality sector.  

It is run by the Belsize Village Business Association (BVBA) and is the first of its kind in the UK.

Robert Stephenson‐Padron, BVBA co-coordinator, said the project was "born out of darkness" during lockdown in the square blighted by a mound of rubbish.

He said the scheme "beautifies the village", and created an "economic renaissance" on land that was once a main road.

"We started  2019 with five closed shops and today we have one left and that's quite an impressive change in a pandemic," he said.

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"London's al-fresco community, importantly, started in Belize Village in the borough of Camden and its permanent adoption should start there as well."

Michelle Caplan, a resident speaking against the scheme, asked for an extension of the temporary licence until September to study CCTV to ascertain the facts of the use of the area and possible reduction in the eating area's size.

She suggested a sub committee made up of business representatives, residents and a third independent party "to restore the friendly mutual ambience in the village and give the residents confidence their interests are considered".

"The committee decision is about changing the use of the licence when in fact the change of use is from a historic established existing public amenity for the whole community to restricted space for commercial use only," she said.

A consultation was carried out from December 6 until January 21, with 362 responses received.

As well as businesses, visitors and other parties, 307 responses were from local residents – 130 of them living within 200m of the streatery. According to council documents, of those 130, 97 supported making the streatery permanent and 33 were against. Of the residents living further out, 158 supported the proposal, with 19 against.

Ms Caplan challenged the consultation results, saying the numbers weren't a "true" reflection of how many respondents opposed the scheme.

Neighbour Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou said the "consultation results were inconclusive".

"Changing the designation of Belsize Village goes beyond supporting the local restaurants, it could change the character of Belsize Village's historic, primarily residential, neighbourhood in an unpredictable way," he said.

Camden's licensing officer said the council was "very confident" that the "general positive response from the local residents is absolutely clear in the consultation". 

He said the council was "open to continue dialogue with the residents and licensees".

Cllr Thomas Gardiner (Lab, Kilburn ward) said the businesses were benefitting from public land, suggesting an outdoor space attached to a food or drink premises would have "considerable value".

The licensing officer said the licensing consultative group, which includes planning officers, had not raised "any specific concerns" about land values.

Cllr Steve Adams  (Con, Belsize Park ward) said formal designation would allow Camden to take "further ownership"  by controlling waste and "look at other various issues about expansion or reduction or control of the streatery".

He said "the general agreement of some sort of future liaison group between the streatery and residents is essential".

Cllr Jonathan Simpson (Lab, Kings Cross) agreed with Cllr Adams about "properly framed engagement" with residents.

He added: "It's perhaps naive or at best stupid to say the pandemic is over. We don't know what's going to happen, we don't know what variant is coming next, we don't what's going to happen in terms of telling people people they don't have to stay at home and isolate and therefore I would urge everybody to continue to monitor the situation and support local businesses, certainly in the case of Belsize."

The scheme was approved by five councillors and rejected by three.