New owners face planning fight over move to rip out historic features inside Bull and Gate music pub

Wednesday, 22nd January 2014


Published: 22 January, 2014

THE clock is ticking to save historic features inside one of Kentish Town’s oldest pubs.

The New Journal has learned that an application to convert the legendary rock ’n’ roll pub the Bull and Gate, which is Grade II-listed, into a gastropub is due to be passed – despite the scheme including plans to rip out many original features. 

Now members of civic group the Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum are fighting to persuade councillors to insist that the application, submitted by brewers Young’s who bought the Highgate Road pub in 2013, is considered by Camden Council’s planning committee and not waved through by officers. 

Town Hall officials are due to discuss the application, which they are minded to recommend, with a small group of senior councillors on Monday night. 

Campaigners say the project must be scrutinised in public as it ignores strict listing regulations designed to preserve historic buildings such as the Bull and Gate, whose back room dancehall has offered a stage to up-and-coming bands for more than three decades. 

Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum chairwoman Caroline Hill, who proposed English Heritage should list the site in 2005, said Young’s claimed that many features they want to dispose of, including solid oak partitions, an “overbar” feature and decorated windows, were not original – but English Heritage thoroughly res­earched the interior when they gave it a listed status and say they are original.

“It is a splendid pub and had wonderful features inside,” said Ms Hill. “I cannot understand how Camden is permitting a beautiful, listed Grade II-pub interior to be dese­crated in this way, all for the sake of yet another gastropub. In these plans all the stained glass will be removed, all the oak dividers will go and, worst of all, the beautiful overbar will disappear. Their view is they want to modernise it, and we do not have anything against gastropubs. But they could do this with a few minor changes."

She added: “What is the point of listing buildings if it will be just then be ignored? We want to see this decision overturned and we are launching a campaign to stop it. We want this to go to the development control committee and not be decided in a members’ briefing meeting.”

A spokesman for Young’s said they were spending a “significant” sum on upgrading the pub and would do what they could to keep as many of the original features while revamping it. 

The spokesman added: “We have been working alongside local heritage planners in order to ensure the significant investment we are making in the Bull and Gate pub is done in a way which safeguards its authentic Victorian charm.  

“As a result, the work we are planning will be carried out in a sympa­thetic manner and with the goal of retaining as many of the original features as possible, making the Bull and Gate one of north London’s most iconic pubs once again. 

“Young’s has been a proud guardian of London’s pub heritage for nearly 200 years and we look forward to welcoming customers through the doors of the rejuvenated Bull and Gate as soon as it is back up and running.”

Councillor Phil Jones, the Town Hall’s cabinet member for transport, sustainability and planning, said: “The Bull and Gate is a much-loved venue in Kentish Town and councillors are taking a close interest in this application.

“Planning officers are currently assessing the proposals, and any effect on the historic fabric of the building is being taken into careful consideration. No decision or recommendation has been made.

“Officers expect to have concluded their evaluation in the next couple of weeks. It will then be decided whether the application needs to be brought before the full planning committee."

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