Hotel development threatens Brixton’s SW9 bar

Alan Culverhouse outside SW9
Alan Culverhouse outside SW9

Yet another Brixton institution is threatened by a development that could sweep it away without adequate recognition or compensation.

SW9, the bar behind Superdrug that has been a source of peace, rest and refreshment for shoppers, local business people and pre-gig visitors for 20 years, will disappear into a new four-storey 96-bedroom hotel if a planning application is successful.

Discussion of plans for a hotel with its entrance on Dorrell Place, which runs between Marks & Spencer and Superdrug, has been going on for about 18 months with the council set to back the application.

The council itself is involved in the planned redevelopment. The main developer is the Colliers Wood based Miraj Investments. It was created in October 2014 and in the following month bought the Superdrug site for £7.6 million with money borrowed from Lloyds Bank.

Miraj directors are 39-year-old British national Abdul Aziz Mohamed and 49-year-old Indian* national Balaji Perukkaranai Madashushi.

In recent correspondence with SW9, Mohamed has used the name Reality Holdings – a company with the same address and directors as Miraj.

Miraj/Reality does not own 11 Dorrell Place, home of SW9. It belongs to a shadowy offshore company, Yelloway. All that can be established about the Isle of Man company is that it has three directors – Edward Norman Bowers, John Anthony Murphy and Janice Margaret Watterson – and was incorporated in April 2002.

The planning application that can be seen online was made in October last year and is being handled by the planning consultancy Metropolis.

SW9 owner Alan Culverhouse’s account of the first approach from the developers’ lawyers is uncannily like those of other small Brixton businesses facing eviction to make way for development.

“They told me there was no point even consulting a lawyer of my own,” he says. They said they had the money, resources and experience behind them to make pointless any resistance to their plan to terminate his lease with compensation that falls many tens of thousands short of his own view of what would be appropriate.

Metropolis organised 150 minutes of consultation on the hotel plan through an exhibition between 3.30pm and 6pm on Saturday 29 October 2015 at the Ferndale Sports Centre on Nursery Road which runs past the SW9. Fifteen people visited.

The website of the Brixton Society, which noted the exhibition, said: “SW9 bar on Dorrell Place is not part of the redevelopment”.

A plan on a flyer for the consultation exhibition showed the SW9 as unaffected
A plan on a flyer for the consultation exhibition showed the SW9 as unaffected

Publicity for the exhibition produced by Metropolis said it concerned “452 Brixton Road/9 Dorrell Place”. The SW9 is at 11 Dorrell Place. A plan on a flyer for the exhibition shows the SW9 as unaffected.

But a year later things had changed.

A Metropolis planning and heritage statement dated 21 October 2016 that is part of the planning application says: “11 Dorrell Place sits on the corner of Dorrell Place and Nursery Road and is currently occupied by a bar/restaurant at ground floor … The proposed scheme will comprise the change of use of 11 Dorrell Place from A4 [planning shorthand for drinking establishment] to C1 (Hotel) to provide ancillary restaurant facilities for both guest and public use and additional bedroom space.”

Lambeth council’s involvement is through its ownership of a passageway at the side of the SW9. The bar had used it only for storing chairs and tables.

SW9 had paid rent for the space until the lease expired without any action from the council. But last October council staff secured the passageway and warned Alan Culverhouse that any attempt to use the space would lead to a fine.

A fourth party in the plans is Network Rail whose lines run either side of the proposed hotel. In its June 2015 letter to Metropolis indicating likely support for the planning application, Lambeth council urged Metropolis to consult residents on the scheme, adding: “It is officers’ view that the Network Rail should be involved in all negotiations”.

A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “The planning application for this site is currently live, and there is a public consultation being carried out as part of this process.”

The Blog approached Miraj Investments, Yelloway and Metropolis for comment, but received no response.

*On 30 August 2017, Mr Balaji Perukkaranai Madashushi changed his registered nationality to British,