Historic pub set to be converted after six year battle against redevelopment

The pub was opened in the 19th century and has been saved from demolition multiple times. Credit: Ewan Munro

The historic Whittington and Cat pub in Archway may be converted into shops and offices after Islington council abandoned its objection to redevelopment plans.

The pub has been closed since 2012, when the owners submitted a planning proposal to turn the premises into flats.

The council rejected their plans, despite the owners’ assurances that the building’s Victorian facade would be preserved, and awarded the pub the borough’s first ‘Asset of Community Value’ status (ACV) to prevent it from being knocked down.

Three subsequent redevelopment proposals, in 2014, 2015 and 2017, were all rejected.

However, the owners refused to reopen the pub, which dates from the late 1880s, insisting that it was no longer financially viable.

Now it seems, the Council concurs. A report by the planning committee says that “the applicant has adequately demonstrated the marketing of the pub for a sufficient period of time to indicate there is not sufficient demand for the existing public house use”.

Kate Calvert, founder of local campaign group Better Archway Forum, told Islington Now that the owners had rejected one plan to re-open the pub.

“We are aware that at least one experienced landlord expressed interest in the pub and was turned down,” she said, adding that the downstairs space had already been “gutted” during a partial redevelopment of the floor above.

Calvert said that the redevelopment was “extremely unfortunate, particularly given the ever more marked reduction in public spaces for local people to meet.

“Some pubs are converted to coffee shops, but they close in the evening. And others become restaurants, which are much more expensive than a place you can enter for the price of a pint,” she said.

John Cryne, of the North London branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), called the Council’s report “disappointing but not unexpected”.

“The planning system as a whole – despite the attempts by local people and indeed Councils – works in favour of those who seek to convert pubs to other uses,” he said. “Nothing it seems can prevent owners closing pubs and allowing them to sit idle while they await the passage of time to get their way.”

The council report said that, while “the public house is representative of the historical and social value to the area”, the pub itself is considered of “limited significance” to the Highgate Hill conservation area.

It added that the purpose of an ‘Asset of Community Value’ listing is “to afford the community an opportunity to purchase the property, not to prevent development in accordance with the development framework”.

Junction ward councillor Janet Burgess said, “I hope that the question will be asked about the efforts made to market the Whittington and Cat over a consistent period to ensure that there really was no market for a pub in the area. The Whittington and Cat has been open for many years and it is always sad when a local landmark closes”.

So far nine people have objected to the application. It will be decided at a meeting on Tuesday 27 March.