May 9, 2014

Kew Bookshop: under threat, but there’s hope yet


Kew Bookshop's current historic building (photo from

Kew Bookshop’s current historic building (photo from

The independent bookshop Kew Bookshop in West London is under threat because the building’s landlords want to demolish the building that houses it. The bookshop is currently located in a wonderfully charming wooden-clad building, which fits perfectly with the character of the street.

When I visited the shop in October, the road was strewn with autumn leaves and decorated with orange pumpkins from the plant shop opposite with the shop nestled cosily among this scene. It is obviously a destination point for locals, as well as an alluring stop for visitors passing on their way to Kew Gardens.

Speaking to the Bookseller, the shop’s owner Isla Dawes explained why the demolition will be the death of the shop:

If the planning application went through, I could not afford the rent on the new double-storey premises, so I would have to close that shop. The point I would like to make is that it is not long since we lost the Lion and Unicorn Bookshop nearby in Richmond due to landlord greed. How many more good independent bookshops are we going to lose because of this?

A campaign to stop the building work going ahead has resulted in 200 objections and 700 signatories in just ten days, as well as winning the support of local celebrities including the actor John Hannah and TV presenter Gabby Logan. Dawes says she has been “very pleased and touched by the response from the trade and local people”. Local MP Zac Goldsmith is also supporting Dawes and the two of them will be meeting with the landlords on Monday to discuss the situation.

Bookshops often typify and help shape the unique character of a high street and its community, and Goldsmith voiced his wider concerns about the ramifications of the shop’s closure:

If the application proceeds, Kew will not only lose a unique and much loved building, it will potentially lose the business as well. Worse, a green light for this development would almost certainly be followed by similar applications, which together would simply devastate Kew Village.

If you’re a local resident and want to object to the proposed works, you can do so here. Current objections are highly persuasive, including the fact that local heritage is being damaged, the new building will not include disabled access, and it will compromise the area’s atmosphere, impacting on local tourism and the business it brings.

And if you’re a fan of bookshops or just hate ugly buildings, you can sign the online petition here.


Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.