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Fears for future of ‘one of the last petrol stations in NW3’

Hotel considers plans for garage used as fuel stop for Royal Free ambulances

21 September, 2017 — By Mimi Launder

Nerali Patel and colleagues who run the under-threat BP Garage in Haverstock Hill

MOMENTS from the Royal Free Hospital, it is the forecourt of choice for ambulance drivers needing to refuel before their next emergency call-out.

But fears for the future of a well-used petrol station in Belsize Park have emerged after the family that run it were told their lease may not be renewed.

There were warnings last night (Wednesday) that if the BP Garage in Haverstock Hill was to close, it would mean extra miles for motorists in Camden who are already facing increasingly long searches for fuel amid a spate of filling station closures across the capital. The neighbouring Premier Inn hotel is said to have taken advice on whether it can expand but could not comment further.

A petition to protect the petrol station was already mushrooming online, and had been supported by ward councillor and leader of the Conservatives in Camden, Claire-Louise Leyland, who said: “It is one of the last in the NW3 area. Please help us protect it.”

Nerali Patel, whose family have run the petrol station for nearly 20 years, said she had been warned by the landlord that the lease may not be renewed in 2020. “People are worried because there are very few local petrol stations,” she said. “Where would local people go? That’s the question people are asking. There are no garages left.”

She added that the area already had enough hotel accommodation, but not enough services for people who live in Belsize Park and Hampstead all year round. “Ambulances from the Royal Free use it for refuelling,” said Ms Patel. “Elderly and disabled people use it for getting supplies. “All the customers I’ve spoken to have the same complaints. They’re wondering whether we really need another hotel.”

Any redevelopment of the site would need to deal with underground pipes and petrol tanks underneath the forecourt. A planning application to build on the same site was rejected by Camden Council in 1994 to avoid the loss of the garage, which was thought too important to the local community. Ms Patel said she had to use Freedom of Information rules to try and get details out of the council in terms of planning advice so far given to Premier Inn.

The fuel industry has seen a long-term trend of forecourt closures, although a dramatic decline in numbers has slowed in recent years. Objectors to any move to close the petrol station in Haverstock Hill, however, say the area is particularly badly served and could lose another nearby alternative – even if temporarily – when the Morrisons supermarket site is redeveloped in Chalk Farm.

Linda Grove, a community campaigner who lives nearby, said: “Landlords want to pull this down and build a high-rise hotel and luxury flats. What with the Pears building [development in Pond Street] too, it will change the face of our neighbourhood to look like anywhere else.”

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