Loss of chemist is bitter pill for loyal customers

RESIDENTS groups are giving the developer behind a controversial block of flats in Swiss Cottage an ear-bashing over the loss of their much-loved chemist

Marc Mullen

RESIDENTS groups are giving the developer behind a controversial block of flats in Swiss Cottage an ear-bashing over the loss of their much-loved chemist.

Galliard Homes, which is demolishing a 1960s block on Winchester Road and replacing it with a five storey, 74-apartment building, was due to meet with residents' groups last night.

The house builder, which took over the development from London Merchant Securities (LMS), has refused to honour an undertaking to find temporary accommodation for Hill Pharmacy.

Residents are furious that Galliard has reneged on the promise. Stan Dobison, chairman of the Taplow Tenants and Residents Association, said: "We are very upset about it because the original plans were not passed until we had got at them and they agreed a temporary chemist.

"The chemist is very important for the elderly residents who live here and all the people who use the new doctors' surgery in the community centre."

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Abdul Kantaria, who has run Hill Pharmacy for more than 20 years, has been desperately trying to find an alternative site.

LMS had originally planned to put a temporary chemist on the corner of Adelaide Road and Winchester Road, and planned to have the shop up and running by December 2006.

Last week negotiations to take over Sugar Cane grocery store on Winchester Road fell through.

Mr Kantaria has now been told by Galliard that he will have to shut his doors for the last time on February 24.

He said: "Our situation is not very encouraging at all. At the moment we are in limbo and we are still in search of suitable premises but I don't hold out much hope.

"We have had help from councillors but the red tape the council itself puts in the way has held it all up.

"The council said it wanted higher rent and put in various conditions, which The Suger Cane owner would have had to satisfy before we could take over the lease. He then got cold feet."

Councillor Don Williams has been working to find a new location for the chemist and still holds a faint hope of finding new premises.

He said: "We are still working on another location. We are still trying our best to work out a solution and save the chemist."

At last night's meeting the developer was also due to outline details of how lorries will access the site and pavements will be cordoned off, and to give details of who residents should contact with their problems.

In a letter to residents groups, Keith Whittaker, senior design co-ordinator at Galliard, wrote: "The planning consent calls for us to arrange a working group to involve local associations to ensure all are aware and understand the works and the procedure to be undertaken to minimise the inevitable disruption such a major development will create."

Residents are planning a protest for the day Hill Pharmacy closes on February 24. But Mr Dobison added: "It probably won't achieve anything as they just ignore us. And I am not confident that they will stick to anything they agree to with the working group, given their track record."