Belsize Streatery: ‘Wonderful project' or ‘land grab' – it's here to stay!

Committee votes to makes al fresco dining in Belsize Square permament

Friday, 18th February — By Tom Foot

belsize streatery CNJ Image 2020-07-09 at 10.28.39 (18)

The streatery up and running in Belsize Square last summer

AN al fresco dining scheme which aimed to help Covid-hit businesses by allowing them to set up tables and chairs in a public square has been made permanent. In a majority decision, councillors voted in favour of the Belsize Village Streatery in Belsize Terrace at a licensing meeting on Thursday night. Some residents had warned the project was a “land grab”.

Applications to make two similar projects permanent in Neal Street and Earlham Street, both in Covent Garden, were rejected following an overwhelming negative consultation response.

Bob Stephenson-Padron, from the Belsize Village Business Association, had urged the committee to approve the scheme, telling councillors it had played a “pivotal role” in transforming a “dying centre into a vibrant community hub” creating an “economic renaissance” that was “nothing short of remarkable”.

He said: “The streatery was born out of the darkness of the pandemic. I saw it as a way of bringing hope and joy to residents in Belsize Village. It quickly supplanted a time of death and isolation with life and community. It has created civil society when there previously was not one.”

 

Cllr Steve Adams

Michelle Caplan, representing residents, told the meeting that Belsize Terrace had been “a public communal area … for at least the last 39 years”, adding: “Streateries were introduced to aid restaurants in the pandemic. Covid restrictions no longer apply. The village is mostly occupied by families who are entitled to quiet enjoyment of their homes and public space.”

She added that Camden Council had not given full thought to a terrorist attack on the streatery, adding: “An attack is more likely in busy places. The streatery provides a small static crowd at a predictable time, making it attractive to terrorists and criminals.”

Nikolaos Panigirt­zoglou, another resident opposed, added: “We as local residents cherish our community space. Our square always had a purpose in the past: as a meeting place, for residents with no gardens, as a play area for children. Why is Belsize Village now only in the interests of businesses?”

Kilburn ward councillor Thomas Gardiner said the new licence would “add a considerable value” to businesses, adding: “What we are being asked to do is permanently transfer public spaces for private use.”

Covent Garden councillor Sue Vincent said she had worked for a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown many years ago, and believed having outdoor seating could add 25 per cent to the value of a lease.

The term “streatery” had not been heard in Camden before 2020 but is now common parlance in the Town Hall.

Cllr Thomas Gardiner

They were made possible under the government’s pavement licence scheme (PVL) that fast-tracked applications from two or more businesses to use outdoor spaces during the pandemic. The official results of the Belsize consultation was that 97 residents living within a 200-metre radius of the scheme were in favour, with 33 opposed.

The meeting heard however that many of those in favour had offered support subject to a range of conditions.

Conservative leader Oliver Cooper said it had been a “wonderful project” but accepted there should be “some sort of oversight panel for residents”, while Belsize ward councillor Steve Adams said Camden should “take further ownership of the proposal” adding that “at the moment it relies on a great deal of goodwill”.

The committee agreed to allow the 14 tables and 28 chairs to be put in the square in the morning until lunch when 24 tables could be used, with a maximum of 40 tables in the evening. A liaison group for residents will be set up and the council will take control of waste removal.

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