Supporters of Passing Clouds have expressed fears that the Dalston venue will close for good – after the council gave developers the green light to reopen its former home for music.
Passing Clouds was evicted from its Kingsland Road site by new owners Landhold Developments last year when its ten-year tenancy agreement ended, and protestors occupied the building for three days before they too were kicked out.
The site returned to its previous use as a solicitors’ office, but a council planning committee on Wednesday approved an application to reopen it as a “hub for music activities”.
Passing Clouds fans, who staged a colourful protest outside the Town Hall featuring drums and bubble machines, fear the bitter feud with the developer will see the venue consigned to history.
They had called on the council to defer a decision on the application to give the two sides more time to negotiate.
But a spokesperson for the Town Hall said it is a matter for Passing Clouds and the developer as to whether the organisation is allowed to return to the site.
The council agreed that the developer’s proposals fulfilled the requirements of the Asset of Community Value (ACV) status the venue was granted last year.
Eleanor Wilson, former owner of Passing Clouds, attended the committee meeting and said: “The only firm proposal that has been made to us by Landhold Developments was for a 400 per cent rent increase.
“This does not in our opinion indicate a commitment towards the continued use of the building for community-based activities as clearly intended by the council.”
Wilson told the Citizen earlier this year that she would fight to keep the venue afloat, despite being disqualified as a director for failing to pay tax.
Landhold Developments bought the Kingsland Road building in 2015 and evicted Passing Clouds in August 2016, prompting the three-day sit-in by protestors.
There was an audible outcry from Passing Clouds supporters on Wednesday when the council announced the decision to grant planning permission to Landhold Developments.
One shouted ‘Shame on you’ to the councillors present as she left the chamber.
The planning permission means the site can return to the same use that Passing Clouds previously held, as a drinking, entertainment and leisure establishment.
Immediately after the meeting, campaigner Saneal Randeria said: “There is a complete vortex in Hackney now that the community no longer have this meeting place.
“Passing Clouds was there for music, community and people, and was truly diverse in its ethnic mix, its gender mix and its sexuality mix.
“But we’re still going to try and get this venue back. This is our venue.”
On Thursday, another supporter, Alex Dickson, posted on Facebook: “Everybody knows developers can promise one thing and do another, and once they have broken the terms of their planning permission and accidentally turned it into something else, the council won’t have the stomach or the money to take them to court over it so they will get away with it. So Passing Clouds will die…”
Landhold Developments said it has held several meetings with Passing Clouds since November 2016 and invited them to submit a proposal to rent the building again.
Managing director Gary Simpson said: “It is up to Passing Clouds to prove that they are a credible and financially viable company.
“In the two years we have owned the property we have not received a business proposal or any financial information to show that they will be able to commit to a long-term rental.
“We are open to the community use remaining in the building. We are actively talking to operators who want to rent the building to offer the type of use that was approved at the planning meeting.”
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “Members resolved to grant conditional planning permission for a change of use at 440 Kingsland Road from a solicitors to a cultural and leisure space and a bar.
“A conditional planning permission for an extension to the building to provide additional cultural and leisure space was also granted.
“The building was previously operated by Passing Clouds under a personal planning permission granted by the Council in 2008 – this permission was for culture and leisure space with an ancillary bar.
“After Passing Clouds left the premises in 2016 following the sale of the building, the Planning use of the building reverted to the previous use as a solicitors.
“However in planning terms it would still be completely lawful for Passing Clouds to continue to operate in the building under their existing personal planning permission, or under the new applications that have now received conditional approval.
“It is entirely a matter for Passing Clouds and the freeholder of the building as to whether they can move back into the building, and there are no planning restrictions to this.”