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Around 20 traders at the North London antiques arcade have now clubbed together to instruct a lawyer to review their situation at the Grade II listed building and look into the changes being made by the owners, the retail property investment company London & Associated Properties (LAP).

These include removing the partitions that separate the existing retail units.

LAP have not said what they intend to do with The Mall, and the six-month notice they gave to dealers was somewhat vague. Some of the traders have been asked to sign a new month-by-month lease for their premises, others have been told to vacate by July.

Last month LAP applied to the council for Listed Buildings Consent to make changes to the basement, the staircases and, crucially, the internal partitioning. This was despite calls from Islington Council leader James Kempton and local MP Emily Thornberry for LAP to withdraw the notice they sent out to dealers telling them to quit.

Cllr Kempton told ATG last month that the council would use their powers to prevent the internal shop units being removed. A spokesman confirmed last week that the council leader’s position on the issue was unchanged and that he was hoping to arrange a meeting with the landlords in March.

The building itself is a former tram station dating from 1850, but the ground floor and the basement were partitioned in 1979, allowing dealers to operate from individual shop units.

Labour councillor Martin Klute, who strongly supports the dealers, told ATG: “If approved, this would be the end of the Mall. No one wants these changes and it is abundantly clear the application should be refused. It shouldn’t even come before a planning committee, it should be refused by planning officers prior to that stage.”

LAP’s application states: “Since purchasing the building in September 2006, we have undertaken a review of the existing building and concluded that it needs refurbishment and modernisation to meet current retail requirements.”

It continues: “The partitions are a modern insertion which does not form part of the building’s special interest. The proposals will open up the ground and basement floors which will represent the original layout of the building.”

Although the application states that the building will “continue to be used for retail purposes and as such no change of use is proposed”, planning law in general does not distinguish between different retail uses.

As such, the granting of Listed Buildings Consent would allow LAP to convert the building into a non-antiques premises or even a high street chain.

The Mall itself stands in a prime location on the busy junction of Upper Street and Essex Road and is regarded as an “anchor point” at the entrance into Camden Passage. As a fine example of Victorian industrial architecture, it has been listed since 1990.

Amongst the rumours going around, there have been suggestions of a fund-raising appeal to buy The Mall back from the property developer. However, unless a “white knight” can be found, this may not be possible.

Indeed, the dealers have already had to pay the lawyers’ fees and one told ATG: “This is expensive and really it should be the council defending us.”

By Alex Capon