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Carpenters campaigners drink to a ‘moral victory’

Ruling comes too late to save ‘important’ pub, but upstairs to be restored

05 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Cam­paigners who fought to save their local pub, the Carpenters Arms pub, in King’s Cross Road

REGULARS at a former traditional pub in King’s Cross are meeting up for a celebration drink after winning a two-year battle against a property developer.

The Carpenters Arms pub, in King’s Cross Road, was sold in 2016 by Punch Inns to Mendoza, which changed it into a trendy cocktail bar known as the Racketeer.

Long-serving landlord Dave Wheeler was forced to leave his home above the pub while it was converted into flats.

But, while the new look can stay on the ground floor, a legal judgment may force the company to put the upper floors back to the way they were.

It follows five hearings – including one in the High Court – which have seen developers appeal to keep the new layout.

In a final verdict made public last week, planning inspector Graham Dudley ruled that the pub had played an “important social role in the community” and that the new bar “while providing a high-class establishment does not provide the same community service”.

He ruled that tied-in accommodation, a function room and a kitchen should be restored.

A lack of landlord accommodation “would make the premises less attractive to potential operators or tenants”, the ruling added. The inspector said that Mendoza’s argument that new flats on the site would help the council fulfil its home-building targets was “not overriding and does not outweigh the need to protect an asset of community value”.

The Carpenters, the childhood home of actress Sheila Hancock, was known for its darts league teams and community events.

Mr Wheeler, who said he had lived at a friend’s pub for almost two years while the council found him a permanent home, said: “It’s not going to be me going back and opening up a pub there, but it’s still a sort of a moral victory against a property developer who thinks he can do what he likes.

“They have got to change the plans now. It has to be a community pub with a landlord, not a lock-up thing. They have to reinstate the function room.

“But it might be that it ends up like the Black Cap [the Camden High Street pub closed for three years] – shut for ages.”

He added: “But right now all the old customers are smiling again and are arranging to meet up one night to celebrate, in Pentonville Road.

“I would have taken another lease at the pub if I could have got one. It was my home and my livelihood and all my friends used it.”

Camden councillor Danny Beales said: “I am delighted the planning inspector has agreed with our original decision to refuse the change of use for parts of the Carpenters Arms. This further validates policies we have in place to protect our borough’s pubs.”

Mendoza could not be reached for comment, but has said that the three flats, “all family sized”, met a need for more homes in the area.

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