Holloway health food store saved by local community

A health food shop has been saved after a huge community effort to protect it.

Bumblebee, which has three shops in Brecknock Road, Holloway, was set to have its kitchen ripped out under plans to convert one of the three premises into flats – a move which the owner said would have threatened the whole business.

The plans, submitted by the property’s freeholder, were thrown out by an Islington Council planning committee, after a campaign led by residents and organic food lovers gathered a petition of 570 signatures and 130 letters of objection.

At last Thursday’s hearing at Islington Town Hall, in Upper Street, Bumblebee’s owner Ian Ogilvie said: “The loss of the kitchen would have many implications, not just on the one shop. The food cooked in the kitchen is sold in the adjacent shop. The implications of this are huge.”

Bumblebee, which employs 13 people and celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, is located in a protected shopping area. Sunil Devalia, the freeholder who submitted the plans, said he was attempting to stop the property falling into disrepair. He said: “The property is in a severe state of disrepair and things are falling off from the inside. I am attempting to preserve this property rather than allowing it to slowly decay.” He added: “On the issue of retail outlets available in Brecknock Road and the surrounding area, I’ve identified three empty premises there.”

Councillors felt Bumblebee’s success was vital to the whole parade of shops – and feared other businesses would be put in jeopardy if it was forced to close due to the loss of its kitchen, meaning fewer customers would go to the strip.

Councillor Jessica Asato, a Labour member for St George’s ward, said: “The plans would mean a loss of jobs, a loss of retail area, a loss of shopping area, a loss of employment and a loss of a valuable piece of the community. Bumblebee is one of the star attractions of a small row of shops in Brecknock Road.”

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Councillor David Wilson, a Liberal Democrat who also represents St George’s, said: “It’s absolutely vital for Brecknock Road that Bumblebee goes on as it is. If you take the kitchen away, lunchtime will be taken away, and after a while the whole thing will collapse.”