A new independent convenience store will be forced to close by the council following protests, petitions and celebrity pressure.
Former pub The Leighton Arms in Camden, London had been closed for more than two years before it was converted into a Nisa Local store, but local councillor Danny Beales said he “served the developers with an enforcement notice asking them to cease the retail use and revert the pub’s frontage to its original state".
Local residents had described the pub as “shabby”, “rundown” and “generally empty all the time".
The enforcement notice means the shop must shut within three months unless the decision is overturned. However, the council had earlier signed off on a major variation of licence and an alcohol licence for the store more than a year ago, and only raised objections once the store had opened and the owner had employed staff and invested thousands of pounds.
According to the local paper, more than 1,200 people signed a petition against the store opening while Game of Thrones actors Charles Dance and Karl Johnson lobbied local MP and shadow minister Kier Starmer to oppose the new store. The petition called for the premises to be kept as a pub.
Protesters said developers Bryanston Investments did not get the correct planning permission to convert the site for retail use. The company denies this claim and blamed “a militant element of the road", for the opposition.
During a protest against the independently-owned business, one resident held up a sign reading “save local shops".
Commenting on the shop’s status, protest organiser Jo Siedlecka answered: “It may be independent, but it’s definitely not local. The store pays minimum wage and the staff don’t speak English. They are Bangladeshis bussed in to the area.” She said the opening was harmful to other local shops and that a café, bar or pub would be the community’s preferred use of the space.
Siedlecka later apologised for the comment, admitting she didn’t know the ethnicity or locality of the staff, describing it as “mean and unnecessary".
The petition was organised with an existing local independent retailer. ““This affects not only me, but maybe nine or 10 local shops will be out of business,” said the existing store owner.
Not all residents were against the store. Jason wrote to the Camden New Journal to say: “I know quite a few people locally that support the shop and have found its location to be perfect.”
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