Fate of Holloway health food shop Bumblebee hangs in the balance

THE future of a long-standing health food shop hangs in the balance after Islington Council officers ignored a huge community campaign to protect the much-loved store.

Bumblebee, in Brecknock Road, Holloway, could lose the kitchen that it’s owner says is crucial to its survival – if councillors vote through plans to convert that part of its premises for flats.

Despite a strong show of opposition – a petition against attracted 570 signatures while 130 letters of objection were lodged – council officers have recommended that the plans be approved.

Councillor Tracy Ismail, a Liberal Democrat councillor for St George’s ward, was shocked that the plan had got this far. She said: “I don’t understand why it’s even getting to committee. It seems to go against everything that is required by Islington’s planning policy.”

The street is designated as a “protected local shopping centre” – yet the plan will see shop space slashed from 92 metres to just 21.

Bumblebee, which has three shops in Brecknock Road, celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. The cooked food is one of the main draws to all of the sites. Bumblebee is seen as a “tent-pole” business that helps attract custom to the stretch, boosting the fortunes of neighbouring shops.

Councillor Ismail added: “This is a vital parade of shops. If one Bumblebee suffers, the other two will suffer. Once shops start to close down, there is a knock-on effect. If fewer people go there because Bumblebee is gone, that will affect the others. We could end up with a street full of empty shops.”

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Owner Iain Ogilvie has said his business will be “devastated” if it goes through. He added: “It would be a blow if we lost.”

The planning office’s report said the change of use of “a small portion” of retail space “would not compromise the future viability of retail use in this location.” A planning committee will rule on the application next Thursday (March 3) at Islington Town Hall, in Upper Street.