Punch, Judy… and the battle to protect a treasured pub

Owner appeals against 'Asset of Community Value' status for the Calthorpe Arms

Friday, 22nd April — By Harry Taylor

Calthorpe Arms Gray's Inn ROad, King's Cross

The Calthorpe Arms

THE owner of a King’s Cross pub has appealed against the community’s bid to have it granted protection from planning changes.

Punch Taverns, which owns the Calthorpe Arms, has appealed against Town Hall’s initial decision in December to grant it Asset of Community Value (ACV) status.

The bid had been headed up by the late community campaigner Judy Dainton, who died in December.

Punch says it does not feel the pub has enough community value for the special status, and adds that the cover is too wide ranging as it includes the first and second floor which has flats. The pub’s function room is also on the first floor.

Campaigners who applied for the ACV fear it means that Punch could turn this space and the kitchen into flats. It is used for quizzes, music events and meetings.

Law firm Freeths, acting on behalf of Punch Taverns, said in its original letter to Camden Council that the upper two floors are residential and should be left out of the nomination.

It added: “The ACV listing of a property can have severe and far-reaching consequences for the owners of listed properties in terms of an owner’s otherwise unrestricted ability to dispose of its property as it sees fit and the potential impact on future development of the property.”

Judy Dainton

But Marianne Jacobs-Lim, who lives nearby, said: “Losing the function room would be the death of the pub. It would end up closing and being locked up.

“It is the only place in the community where people can meet or gather. Otherwise it would be in people’s homes and it wouldn’t work. There’s nowhere else.”

The pub was built in the 1820s, and is thought to be where the Brink’s-Mat robbery of 1983 was planned. Punch Taverns bought it from Young’s last year.

Nearby lies the empty Pakenham Arms, despite officials rejecting a change of use application to turn it into office space from a pub in 2018. Regulars fear that the Calthorpe could meet the same fate.

Ms Jacobs-Lim added: “We’ve seen at first hand what has happened to pubs that have closed briefly, which is that they tend to close forever.”

The granting of the ACV status was one of the last things that Ms Dainton, a former head of the Calthorpe Street Residents Association, achieved among many neighbourhood campaigns.

“It would be great to make sure we get this, and do it in Judy’s memory,” Ms Jacobs-Lim said. “It was one of the last things she did. I know that she would say, ‘it’s about the community, it’s not about me’.”

Punch Pubs’ property director Stephen Allen said: “It is a fantastic pub with a huge amount of opportunity and remains an integral part of the Punch portfolio.

“We are currently exploring all of our options regarding investment and refurbishment opportunities.

“We want to reassure members of the local neighbourhood that our priority is to ensure the Calthorpe Arms remains at the very heart of the community.”

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