Campaigners save Highgate’s historic Winchester pub from flats plan

The Winchester pub in Highgate. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The Winchester pub in Highgate. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Hundreds of campaigners are celebrating saving a historic pub which once counted celebrities among its regulars from being carved up into flats.

But protestors who want to see The Winchester in Archway Road, Highgate, up and running again remain cautious as they expect developer GFO Capital to appeal Thursday’s decision by Haringey Council to refuse plans for two flats behind the bar area.

They had been worried that the bid for more flats on the ground floor of the now-closed Victorian pub was a ploy to turn the whole building into housing.

Christopher Riley, chairman of The Miltons Residents Association (MRA), who launched a petition to save the pub, said: “It was great that everyone pulled together and rallied around to support the cause. That was brilliant.

“Everyone is really pleased that the planning application has been refused, but we are still expecting an appeal so it’s difficult to be too optimistic.”

But celebrations were marred slightly when it was also revealed on Thursday that pub company London Pubs Ltd has pulled out of running the tavern once it is redeveloped.

In a statement to campaigners, London Pubs owner Jonathan Perritt, wrote: “We registered our interest in taking a lease and have subsequently and regrettably, withdrawn our interest.”

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It comes after Mr Perritt and his brother, Andrew Perritt, closed The Magdala pub in Hampstead two weeks ago after being unable to agree on a new lease with the owner, Bow Capital Ltd.

Mr Riley added: “The developer could now use this as a reason to shut down the pub permanently, if there is no-one to run the pub. It’s very worrying.”

Mr Riley listed the pub as an asset of community value (ACV) last year, but the extra layer of planning protection only applies to the bar area of the pub.

More than 600 people signed a petition and nearly 200 formally objected to the plans to build two flats on the pub’s ground floor.

GFO Capital has already won planning permission for one flat on the ground floor of the pub, and is in the process of converting its former hotel rooms on the top floors into more housing.

London Pubs had written to Haringey Council to say that building two flats instead of one would not impact on its future business, before it pulled out last week.

But on Thursday, Haringey Council officers refused the plans.

In a decision notice posted online, they wrote: “The loss of the space in question to residential use would affect the attractiveness, popularity and offer provided by this public house, jeopardising its long term use and viability as a public house with the potential associated loss of this community facility.”

The Winchester closed in 2014 when previous owners Pat and Val Collins retired after decades as landlords of the pub.

It once counted actors Liz Hurley and Tom Hardy among its regulars, and is thought to have partly inspired the drinking hole of the same name in Simon Pegg’s 2004 zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead.

The Hollywood actor and comedian used to live in nearby Crouch End.

KR Planning, acting on behalf of GFO Capital, declined to comment. The project’s architects, Brooks Murray, said it could not discuss the scheme because of a “confidentiality agreement” with its client.

For more on this story, see Thursday’s Ham&High.