A planning application for a two bedroom flat to be built at the back of the Palace Gates Dry Cleaners, 26 Palace Gates Road, would make it impossible for Zoe and Demos, who have run the business on the premises for the past 23 years, to continue as it would leave them with just the shop at the front, but without the laundry and boiler room at the back.
I have objected. The reference is HGY/2017/1185.
The landlords (most of the arcade is owned by 3 people) had already been allowed to subdivide the flats above the shops to the point where the flats are warrens. The walls run across window panes in some cases, making them fire hazard. All subdivided flats are rented. The few single flats owners find themselves unable to sell them for anything approximating prices similar properties fetch in the neighbourhood. The greedy landlords then began building onto the back of the terraces, exploiting the Council's long standing failure to intervene in illegal developments. They got retrospective planning permission (despite numerous complaints from the residents). As a result, some shop premises are difficult to rent and two are still unoccupied. The precedent was set for further extensions when the first retrospective planning permit was granted. That is the background. What is happening now?
Following G and Garnham closure and liquidation of the business, property developers bought the building in Crescent Mews to convert it into 46 flats. I do not have a problem with this development, right opposite my house, and doubt many of my neighbours will. People have to live somewhere. We have an empty old industrial building and someone willing to turn it into residential unit. Some of the flats will be social housing, so desperately needed in the neighbourhood. What is there to object to?
But, the owners of the arcade may make it impossible to turn the G & Garnham old building into flats as they expand and build onto the back of their properties, leaving too little space for access. Or, their extension may necessitate a reduction in the number of the flats planned in the G&Garnham building, making it impossible for the developer to provide the quota of social housing units. Or, the finances may make it impossible for the developer to proceed and the neighbourhood will be left with a decaying, empty building.
I do not trust the Council planning department to make the right decision here. We have been complaining about the sharp practices of the arcade owners for two decades, as they went about destroying its original features, only to be ignored time and again. What had previously been a well preserved, intact Edwardian arcade, a rare sight in London, is no more (Muswell Hill must be the finest of the large ones that remain, but of the small ones there are none I can think of). Gone in 20 years, because the Council lacked muscle to enforce the law. And the local residents were too busy with their lives to mind. So, if you are not too busy with your lives, please at least give objecting to this application a thought. Zoe and Demos will lose their business. We shall lose our dry cleaners. And more people will be crammed into dwellings unfit to house them.