News

Bowes Park community plea to save pub from developers

Community members are rallying together to save ‘a social hub’ from being sold to private developers, reports Stefanie Mair

The Step
Credit Stefanie Mair

A campaign to rescue a Bowes Park cafe, bar and community space has raised more than £150,000 of investment from the local community in just three weeks.

The Save the Step campaign aims to prevent developers from repurposing The Step on Myddleton Road, close to Wood Green and Palmers Green, instead buying and reopening it as a community pub. If the campaign raises £250,000 of investment by Sunday, 19th March, the current owner is willing to sell the N22 venue back to the community. 

Once the “social hub of the area”, The Step closed in March 2020 when its previous owners left London. Now, seven local volunteers have launched a Community Benefit Society in an effort to bring it back. 

They have already secured a £250,000 government grant which they are seeking to match by getting locals to buy into their community share offer.

Dan Jones, chair of Save the Step, said: “The Step was the social hub of the area so it’s really about getting that back.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm from people to bring it back under its current use. Hopefully we can make that happen.”

Save the Step promises to put “community spirit at its heart”. The group has surveyed more than 500 people around Bowes Park and Bounds Green to hear their views on what they want from the space. 

The community pub’s offering is hoped to go beyond simply food and drink. Jones said: “I think people are really looking forward to live music, art on the walls, somewhere local groups and clubs can meet up. So, a social space, and a cultural space.”

Save the Step intends to lease the property to a business experienced at running pubs, bars or cafes. 

Asked how they would ensure that local interests are met by the tenant, Jones said a lot of local businesses are interested in running the venue, with former Step users among them. 

He said: “We have people who I think are buying into the vision of what we’re trying to do, so I think we’ll easily be able to get the community’s viewpoint across. That view is mainly: ‘Can we have The Step back?’”

The project also addresses other spaces in the community. The Victorian shopping street Myddleton Road is part of the Bowes Park Conservation Area and won the London category of the Great British High Street Awards in 2016. Jones said there had been a lot of support growing for the road over the past decade, but that the pandemic and the closure of The Step have taken their toll.

He said: “Hopefully this project can kick start things again. That’s really the aim. It’s not just about The Step – it’s also about revitalising the road and trying to get things going.”

The share offer the group has launched sets out their aim of boosting the economy by increasing footfall, employing local food and drink suppliers and creating job opportunities.

Duman Aydemir, who owns Ayta Food Centre on Myddleton Road and used to visit The Step, said: “We see this as good for the street. There will be more people, it will make the road busier – people will come and buy whatever they need.”

Lucy Whitehead, who set up the monthly Myddleton Road Market in 2013 to bring life back to the street and support local businesses, also welcomed the effort to bring back The Step. 

She said the venue has been really missed since it closed: “They’re really really well organised and know what they’re doing. They have a great campaign going on.”

The committee members behind Save the Step share a business background. They are working with experienced professionals, as well as seeking the advice of the Plunkett Foundation which has helped set up a number of other community pubs – of which there are now more than 150 around the UK.

The initial funds raised will go towards buying and renovating the building. Save the Step claimed it was gutted by developers with a view to the space being converted into flats.

After renovation costs and building up a contingency fund, Save the Step aims to make a profit from leasing the venue to its chosen tenant. Shareholders are being promised ‘a real stake in the community’, so they will get a say on how the profit is spent for the community.

Save the Step also hopes to be able to pay shareholders back their original investment after the first few years. 

Having secured over half the funding they require in grants from the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Community Ownership Fund, Jones said: “People are looking at our plans and they’re enthusiastic and happy with what we’re doing, rather than raising questions.”

Bowes Park Community Association has also launched a crowdfunder for anyone wishing to donate without becoming a shareholder. 

Jones commented: “[The Step] used to bring a lot of people here, and it can again. I think that’s proven by the enthusiasm that we’re getting with hundreds of people wanting to get involved.”

For more information or to get involved, visit savethestep.com


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