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Flats bid sparks row over Alliance pub’s future

Clash between owner and neighbours over plans for two more flats

14 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

The Alliance pub in Mill Lane (Pic: Joanne Scott)

THE owner of a West Hampstead pub is in a stand-off with customers and neighbours over a plan to convert part of the building into flats.

Mark Reynolds has been told the loss of space would risk making The Alliance, in Mill Lane, unviable in the future. In reply, he argues that the pub could close if the proposals are rejected by council planners.

Mr Reynolds said: “The community would lose a much-loved local meeting place and about six people would lose their jobs, including the landlord of nearly 25 years, Michael Keating, who is in favour of the plans.”

The owner has already built seven flats on the site over the past five years and now hopes to add two more one-bedroom flats.

But Joanne Scott, co-chair of the Fordwych Residents Association, said she believed the opposite was true – and that the pub was less likely to survive if the works get the go-ahead.

She said: “We do feel that this is wearing away on the viability of this as a pub. It will reduce floor space, see it make less money and become less attractive for customers.

“It’s a key hub for our community. So many people rely on the Alliance, especially during Covid. People, including older people, can come in and see someone. It’s important they don’t become isolated and lonely.”

An application lodged with the Town Hall said: “The creation of two additional residential units accords with the council’s aim of maximising the supply of new housing in the borough.”

The kitchen will be moved to the lower ground floor and a “community room” will be built on the same floor. The proposal is the latest in the past five years since flats started to be added to the site.

Mr Reynolds told the New Journal that the lower ground floor is largely unused and is in poor condition. “The application seeks to use this wasted space to create customer space – it can be used as a pool room, music room or dining room – as well as install a commercial kitchen and build a high-quality flat. This will help the pub operate far more economically and protect its future.”

He added: “I care about the Alliance. I sincerely hope that the objections are not successful as this will almost certainly lead to the loss of a historic local pub.” But Ms Scott said the proposals were not appropriate and would prove logistically difficult for Mr Keating in running the pub.

She added: “The flats would take away part of the pub and replace them with a windowless space in the basement with no natural light. It’s a food-led pub, and I’m worried that the relocation of the kitchen will also make the pub more difficult to run.”

The pub was granted Asset of Community Value (ACV) status in 2016, which expires later this year. The New Journal has been told that an application will be submitted to extend it.

Keith Moffitt, co-chair of the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, which is behind the ACV, said: “I don’t agree with [Mr Reynold’s] assessment. I understand why he is saying that but it is far more likely that the pub becomes unviable if he pushes the envelope too far with this and the pub goes out of business. “With less surface area it will become less able to properly

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