Planners ‘nervous' about deciding on changes to Bull and Gate music pub

Friday, 2nd May 2014

PLANNING chiefs were last night (Thursday) unable to make up their minds on what should happen to an iconic venue in British rock 'n' roll history. 

Councillors sitting on Camden's Development Control Committee said they had been left “hopelessly confused and very nervous” about the decision to turn the Bull and Gate pub in Kentish Town Road into a gastro-pub, because they did not have enough information. 

The pub is owned by Young's Brewers, after it bought the Grade II listed pub from Pat and Margaret Lynskey, who had run the venue for over three decades. 

The company had applied for two “out-buildings” to the rear of the pub to be demolished and for a “single-storey extension” to be built in their place, internal and external alterations to the existing building, new windows, and the replacement of existing windows and doors. 

Caroline Hill, who is the chairwoman of Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum, said she opposed some of the changes Young's wanted to make because some of the pub's features were “historic.”

Ms Hill told the meeting: “Alterations would damage the wonderful atmosphere of the pub. It would be a crying shame if we lost the stained glass that exists inside the pub or the low level timber screens. The over bar is one of the pub's best features, and it too, must be maintained. The rear of the main bar, which is one of the oldest parts of the pub, could be converted into a toilet. That is unacceptable.”

The pub dates back to 1871, but gained its notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s by becoming a launchpad for bands in its legendary back room. Coldplay, Keane, the Manic Street Preachers and Blur all played there.  

The Town Hall had received a raft of objections to the proposals. 

Helen Cuthbert, who is Young's planning advisor said historic floorplans showed the screens were inserted post 1979, and that the stained glass was “average, and put up in the 1970s.”

She added that the 'over bar' was introduced in the 1980s and was “made to look aged.” But Ms Hill, who told councillors she got the pub its Grade II listing, said the former owners had told her the over bar could be an original feature. 

Councillor Roger Freeman, who chaired the committee, said: “The majority do not feel they are in a position to vote on this, so we will defer this item. We will organise a site visit before our June meeting. By then, it may be a new planning committee who decides due to the upcoming election.” 

Lib Dem councillor Matt Sanders said: "After hearing the objectors and the developers, I feel hopelessly confused about this. I am extremely nervous that we get this right, but I am very confused about what's original and what's not. The developers say the over bar is 1970s plywood and the objectors say it is original. What's correct?"

Councillors took a unanimous vote to defer the decision until June, after a visit to the pub.

Peter Taylor, who is Young's operational director, said the company already ran Camden Town's Spread Eagle pub and The Flask in Hampstead. 

He added: “We are keen to provide a British food led pub. We are also increasing jobs and investment in the area while remaining respectful to the historic building.”

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