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Co-op withdraws application to open new store in Belsize Village

PUBLISHED: 15:59 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 October 2018

Campaigners in Belsize Village celebrate the Co-op's decision to pull out of opening a shop in the former XO premises.

Campaigners in Belsize Village celebrate the Co-op's decision to pull out of opening a shop in the former XO premises.

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Co-op has withdrawn its application to move into Belsize Village and take over the former XO restaurant site.

Residents and councillors outside the former XO restaurant that was set to become a Co-op in Belsize Village. Picture: Linda GroveResidents and councillors outside the former XO restaurant that was set to become a Co-op in Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove

The bid had proved controversial, as businesses and residents had complained about the supermarket’s plans to move into Belsize Lane, saying it would increase traffic and put them out of business.

Linda Grove spearheaded the campaign against the Co-op’s plans. She was also involved in a campaign led by Jessica Learmond-Criqui against a Tesco moving into the area in 2015. She said the withdrawal was “great news”. “For those doubters who said you’re not going to do it, we gave it a go and we have.

“It was never anti-Co-op. I would’ve supported it if it was in the right place, but it isn’t right for Belsize Village. I’m surprised because it’s very hard to fight these big organisations.”

The licensing application, which the Co-op had submitted in order to sell alcohol in the store, was due to be heard at a licensing meeting on November 8. If successful, the store was due to open its doors to customers later this year.

Mohammed Shafiq outside the Late Late Store in Belsize Village. Picture: Linda GroveMohammed Shafiq outside the Late Late Store in Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove

Dawn Zimbler, who lives in Belsize Square, was less delighted with the announcement. She had backed Co-op’s move and said she was “furious” with the supermarket chain’s decision to pull out.

“I’m really annoyed. The people who have opposed it in the area are the rich and the wealthy who can afford to shop there. We need a Co-op. Not everyone can nip in a car to Waitrose in the Finchley Road, or down to Tesco in England’s Lane.”

Dawn says she often uses the Late Late Store, who were concerned about the affect on their business from the new Co-op to top-up her pre-paid electric card, which costs more because the cash machine in the store charges.

The 48-year-old, who has lived in the area for five years, said: “If you’re elderly or infirm, you won’t have the luxury of being able to travel that far. It’s no good for social tenants either, as the Late Late Store doesn’t let you use your debit card to top up. So you have to take money out and pay £1.90 every time. It’s a real shame.”

It’s believed the Co-op has been conducting a door-to-door consultation with neighbours of the proposed site in the last week.

A spokesperson from the Co-op said: “We have talked extensively to local people and while there are a range of views we do not now believe we’ll achieve the necessary consents required to successfully open and operate a store which will serve the needs of the whole community. Therefore we will not proceed with the store.”

Conservative councillor Maria Higson said it was important for residents to remain vigilant. She said: “We said from the outset that Camden Council should reject any licence that relied on special favours being granted to Co-op, flouted its ordinary rules, or did harm to Belsize Village.

“If another harmful application is made, we will fight it alongside residents. I’m glad the consultation, which was driven by local people, has done its job.”

Hampstead lawyer Jessica Learmond-Criqui has led two campaigns against supermarkets moving into Hampstead. She was due to represent residents objecting to the Co-op’s licensing application at the meeting in November, said: “I’m delighted that the Co-op has taken this decision. The licensing application was the first step for them to open in the village. They have recognised that coming to this village could ruin the lives of the four independent traders on Belsize Lane.”

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