THE campaign to save The Mall in Camden Passage appears to be facing defeat, with the landlords of the North London antiques centre having evicted all the remaining dealers. The iconic Grade II listed building at the head of the famous antiques thoroughfare, which formerly housed over 30 dealers, now lies empty with the shutters down.
Members of the trade, local residents and Islington Council have expressed their outrage at the closure of what has been an important focal point for the trade and the community.
Islington Council leader James Kempton said: "This is a very sad day and one we all hoped could be avoided, but the developers are more interested in making a fast buck. The antiques centre is famous around the world and this is a very sad day for Islington and London. Islington Council has fought tooth and nail against the closure of The Mall and rejected its owner's plans to rip out the small shops loved by so many.
"We urged The Mall's owner to let traders stay at least until a final decision is made on the building's future in a few months' time, but sadly our pleas seem to have been ignored."
The owners of The Mall, the retail property investment company London & Associated Properties (LAP), gave dealers until October 1.
Their original attempt to gain Listed Buildings Consent to remove the individual dealers' shop units was unanimously rejected by an Islington Council planning committee in April, and their appeal is due to be settled at a public inquiry in December.
It is thought that LAP are attempting to convert the two floors of the building into single units in order to sell the space to a multi-national chain. The council have warned the owners against starting any building work before the inquiry. In a letter sent to LAP, they say they will take out an injunction to stop them if they do.
A handful of dealers have been able to find space elsewhere in Camden Passage, while others have left the area.
Jewellery and cufflinks dealer Valerie Whitehouse, who trades as Circa 1900, has now moved upstairs at No 6 Camden Passage, having previously moved to The Mall after the nearby Georgian Village antiques arcade was turned into a Reiss fashion chain outlet two years ago.
"I'm very happy to stay in Camden Passage," she told ATG. "Business has been OK and I hope it will get better.
A number of dealers have moved across London to Grays antiques centre in Mayfair. One of them, Jan Van Den Bosch, who deals along with his wife Carole in silver and jewellery, told ATG that if the landlords' planning appeal does not succeed, they may have to start re-letting the individual units in The Mall. He said they were very sad to leave after having just had their most successful year so far in The Mall.
Mike Weedon of Camden Passage Association said: "For the landlords to do this at a time when stock markets are falling and in the midst of a slump in commercial property seems foolhardy."
The public inquiry will be held on December 9-10 at The Crescent Suite Highbury, 70 Ronalds Road, London N5 1XA. Anyone wishing to speak should give their name at the door on arrival before 10am on December 9.
When contacted by ATG, no one at LAP was available for comment.