Jon Snow joins campaigners at public inquiry
Ben McPartland CAMPAIGNERS have turned out in force in the battle to save a popular Kentish Town pub from redevelopment and possible closure. Newsreader Jon Snow joined MP Frank Dobson, Kentish Town councillors and regulars from the Torriano pub at an app
CAMPAIGNERS have turned out in force in the battle to save a popular Kentish Town pub from redevelopment and possible closure.
Newsreader Jon Snow joined MP Frank Dobson, Kentish Town councillors and regulars from the Torriano pub at an appeal hearing into the plans.
Spaces Property Ltd, owned by Shane Desai, wants to turn the accommodation above the Torriano into two private flats, which would see landlords Dean Guberina and Suzi Martin left homeless.
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The developers also want to remove the pub's popular basement Live Lounge - the scene of a recent Pete Doherty gig - and replace it with a kitchen.
Although Spaces insists it wants to keep the pub, campaigners say they have have little trust in the company and fear the Torriano will eventually be closed.
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Taking time out from his Channel 4 newsreading, Mr Snow told the public inquiry: "I have had a home in the community since 1979 and I know it extremely well. I have seen other pubs in the area disappear and social amenity erode.
"This pub represents a genuine focus of community activity. It is a place both to meet and enjoy performance and entertainment.
"The landlords have made such a place of it and it is such an opportunity for local people to come that it has provided a resource that is well worth fighting for."
The public appeal, held on Wednesday and Thursday last week at Connaught Hall in Tavistock Square, was called after the council rejected the developer's plans last October.
Councillors had ignored the advice of their officers and turned down the plans on the grounds that the loss of the five-bedroom family house and the "community facility" - the Live Lounge -- would go against the guidelines set out in the council's Unitary Development Plan.
Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, told the hearing: "In my long experience as a local MP the overwhelming need in this area expressed to me in letters, emails, faxes and calls is for more family-size flats.
"It is clear that replacing the family home with two one-bedroom flats would not meet that pressing need for housing."
Kentish Town Lib Dem councillor Nick Russell said: "For the people who signed the 112 pages of petitions, we do understand their fear that these proposals will deprive them of a community facility which has no equal in the neighbourhood."
The hearing heard how the Live Lounge, which hosts poetry evenings, concerts and workshops, accounts for about 50 per cent of the pub's takings.
Despite this, Garrett Byrne - the barrister for Spaces - told the hearing the idea the pub was a community facility was simply "pie in the sky".
He also insisted the pub, albeit a very different one, would remain if developers were given the green light.
He said: "This proposal is supported by all relevant policies. They will significantly augment and improve a much-loved pub which is to be retained.
"What is really objected to here is the type of pub on offer but planning laws do not ensure the particular way in which a landlord manages a pub or the services he offers to his patrons, no matter how popular he is within the local community."
Torriano landlord Mr Guberina has also been told by Mr Desai that his lease will not be renewed when it runs out later this month.