IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Planning permission granted for ex-pub in Archway to become shop and offices

Offices plans dash hopes of reopening the Whittington and Cat - watering hole where new parents ‘wet the head’ of babies born at nearby hospital

06 April, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

The Whittington and Cat when it closed in 2014

IT was one of the first stops for breathless new parents looking to ‘wet the head’ of babies born at the Whittington Hospital, a traditional pub where a thousand toasts to new tots were raised over the years.

But the Whittington and Cat’s life as a watering hole looks to be over after planners approved a bid to turn it into a shop and offices, ending hopes that the bar would one day reopen.

The pub, outside the hospital in Highgate Hill, closed more than three years ago. It was saved from a demolition plan in 2012 when it was listed as an asset of community value (ACV), an added layer of planning protection.

Islington Council, however, has been told that attempts to find new landlords have hit a brick wall.

A planning officer said in a committee report that it had been marketed for two years, but, despite more than 40 viewings, no potential pub tenants decided to sign a lease.

Reasons included the lack of a beer garden, the premises being too small and the area too quiet.

The asking rent of £40,000 a year was considered “reasonable” when compared to other premises.

Becoming an ACV means local people are given the opportunity over a period of six months to attempt to raise funds to buy a designated property.

John Cryne, chairman of consumer group Camra North London, questioned how the Whittington and Cat’s fate could affect future ACVs, which allow a community to raise funds to buy a designated property before it goes on the market.

“It is very disappointing that we have got to this juncture but do I see a way out? I’m not sure I do,” he said. “The difficulty is that we have got parts of London where new pubs are opening but they are not community pubs.”

The pub is supposedly close to where Dick Whittington abandoned his attempt to leave London, staying to become mayor of the city.

Councillors approved the shops and offices plans with conditions, including that development has to begin within three years and that the proposed new use will not be outside the hours of 7am to 10pm.

“Archway town centre has undergone significant change in recent years and further development sites will come forward,” says Islington’s planning report.

“However, it is not considered justified to withhold planning permission on the basis of an increase in likely patrons to the Whittington and Cat public house.

“It is evident that the pub has been closed for a significant time without the immediate prospect of being reopened.”

It adds: “The site has been vacant for over three years and it is not considered reasonable to withhold permission on the premises of what may or may not happen into the future.”

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