Belsize Park pub flats application approved in spite of ‘asset stripping’ concerns

The Sir Richard Steele pub is an Asset of Community Value

The Sir Richard Steele pub is an Asset of Community Value - Credit: Archant

The owners of a Belsize Park pub were accused of “asset stripping” amid cynicism over a bid to turn upper floors into flats.

Last week councillors approved a bid to turn the first and second floors into homes at the Sir Richard Steele pub in Haverstock Hill.

But members of Camden Council’s planning committee voiced concern about the intentions of owner Faucet Inn – which also owns the closed Black Cap pub in Camden and the Dartmouth Arms in Dartmouth Park.

The company says turning the upper floors into four flats will secure the venue’s future.

Its website describes the venue as “a North London institution”.

The existing toilets and kitchen will be demolished, and a new extension will be built to house a new function room.

But Councillor Jonny Bucknell, Conservative, said at a meeting on Thursday: “I do think this has been a very sad case of asset stripping.”

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And he questioned who would want to take on the pub once the flats are sold.

Cllr Bucknell said: “Who will they sell it to?

“I don’t think it’s going to be someone who’s fanatical about pubs, it’s going to be a property developer.

“I think when they develop the upper floors and sell off the upper floors, they’ll just throw it to the wind and somebody will come in who will run this pub into the ground.”

The accusation was met with a flat denial by the applicant.

Planning agent Kieron Hodgson, representing the pub’s owners, said it was necessary in order to keep the pub running.

He told the cross-party committee: “It’s a business that’s on the margin of viability, so this is securing the future of this community pub over the long term.”

He said the move would ensure the pub will continue to operate “for the next number of decades”.

Mr Hodgson also said the new function room would be better than the existing room, which is currently closed for safety reasons.

Further disquiet was voiced by Councillor Danny Beales, Labour, who told the committee: “The applicant has a very poor record in delivering what it promises.”

And he continued: “I do question whether this applicant is actually in the pub business, or whether it’s in the development business.”

He closed his speech stating: “I’m very very sceptical.

“I believe very little that we’ve been told.”

The committee agreed to insert a caviat stating that the new flats could not be sold until the function room is up and running.

The application received six letters of objection and 52 of support.

Among the supporters were Primrose Hill Ballet School, which said it was interested in using the function room.