High Court appeal saves Brixton's oldest night spot Club 414 from being turned into luxury flats

The loss of a series of famous London nightclubs and music venues has inspired the formation of a new pressure group, Nightlife Matters, which has campaigned to save Brixton's oldest night spot from the wrecking ball.

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Brixton’s oldest nightclub has been saved from redevelopment — for now — following a heated local protest and a High Court appeal that have highlighted the ongoing clash between the ambitions of property companies and Londoners’ determination to save popular landmarks.

Market Row Ltd owns the Club 414 building, on a prime site in Coldharbour Lane, and wants to replace it with boutiques and luxury flats.

The loss of a series of famous London nightclubs and music venues has inspired the formation of a new pressure group, Nightlife Matters, which campaigns to protect those that remain. 

According to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, between 2005 and last year the number of nightclubs in Britain fell from 3,144 to 1,733.

Lambeth council gave permission for the Brixton scheme last autumn, despite receiving more than 400 objections and a petition signed by 2,500 people. One local said: “We don’t want more offices and shops replacing the culture and heritage of a richly diverse part of London.” 

Louise Barron, owner of Club 414 in Brixton, outside the High Court

Louise Barron, who has run the venue since 1985, challenged the council’s ruling in the High Court. Today it emerged that Lambeth’s decision has been quashed, saving the club — at least for the short term. The planning application will be returned to the council for reconsideration.

Lambeth has a policy of protecting Brixton’s “night-time economy”. Ms Barron, 59, said that when she opened her nightclub, with the help of a £5,200 grant from the council, there were no legal late-night venues in Brixton. “We started the night-time economy and championed the dance scene,” she said. “You name a DJ and they have played here. We are the character of Brixton. People met their husbands and wives at the club and our customers have become our friends. It is a cohesive force in the community.”

As well as awaiting a new planning decision on the club, Ms Barron faces a hearing in July to determine whether her lease on the property will be extended. Last year she appealed against a notice to quit, and a Lambeth county court judgment will determine her fate. “My flat is in the building, so I would be jobless and homeless,” she added.

A spokesman for Market Row Ltd, a subsidiary of London & Associated Properties, which bought the freehold of Brixton Market in 2007, said today that since legal proceedings are ongoing it “would not be appropriate” to comment on the case. 

Brixton Market was saved from redevelopment after the site won listed status in 2011, though many original traders have left and been replaced by hipster cafés. 

Historic England — formerly English Heritage — gave Grade II*-listed status last month to two buildings in Denmark Street, near Tottenham Court Road, where the Sex Pistols lived and recorded. David Bowie and the Rolling Stones also recorded at former studios in the street. Known as Tin Pan Alley, Denmark Street is due to be redeveloped as part of the Crossrail scheme, and protesters fear its unique spirit will be lost.

In Soho, meanwhile, actors Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch were among those who protested last year against the abrupt closure of Madame Jojo’s cabaret club after the revocation of its licence. Planning permission for a mixed development in its place has been granted by Westminster council, though the club is said to be reopening.

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