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The inquiry took place in North London last month and heard evidence from parties including Mike Weedon from the Camden Passage Association, representatives from Islington Council, and lawyers from the owners of The Mall, the retail property investment company London & Associated Properties (LAP).

No decision has yet been taken and the inquiry will reconvene later in January. A final decision is not expected until March at the earliest.

LAP’s plans to remove the individual dealers’ units on the two floors to create larger single spaces were unanimously rejected by a council planning committee in April 2007. The landlords then appealed and in October they evicted the remaining dealers.

The building has since been empty.

It emerged at the inquiry that LAP have now signed an agreement with upmarket fashion retailer chain Jack Wills, which would see The Mall become their sixth London outlet if plans are accepted.

LAP argued at the inquiry that there was nothing of “special interest” in removing the internal partitions. Those opposing the plans pointed out that the loss of the antiques centre would damage the unique character of Camden Passage and harm local businesses.

In recent weeks a separate licensing application has been made to turn the top floor of The Mall, which was formerly a restaurant, into a late-night bar. Those behind the venture, a company called Guild Bars Ltd, say they will talk to local residents including the Camden Passage Association to allay concerns about noise and rowdy behaviour.

It was reported in the local press that they are planning live jazz or folk music on Fridays and Saturdays only.

• The public inquiry into The Mall will resume at 10am on January 20. Those wishing to attend should report to Room 2A at Islington Council’s Municipal Offices at 222 Upper Street.

By Alex Capon