Pensioners who once shopped in Peckham’s iconic Victorian department store approve of a nightclub conversion saying it’s “better than leaving it to rot”.
Since closing in 1980 it’s been largely vacant – barring a short stint when it was the Peckham Palais nightclub – and become dilapidated and graffiti-covered.
David Murphy, 78, grew up in Peckham and worked in the Jones & Higgins’ woodwork department, aged fourteen.
Although he questioned whether a nightclub was needed, he said: “I’d rather someone do something with it rather than leave it to rot.”
He said restoring the building’s external facade would be “lovely”.
He added: “The Jones & Higgins was a beautiful place, a lovely place. It was like Harrods. All the shops were respectable. There were… bespoke tailors where you could get a handmade suit.”
Under the current proposals, the club would remain open until 6am some nights and include a bar and space for live music.
John Braggs, 81, has lived in Peckham for 50 years. He said: “There are plenty of youngsters around here so I suppose they will go up there.”
He said he was in favour of “anything that jazzes it up a bit”.
Others were excited by the plans because of the prospect of a new place to party in the area.
Jamil Charles, 40, who used to visit the club when it was Ezekiels Peckham Palais, said: “I used to come clubbing here a lot. It was a good club man.
“It was local, every weekend there was something going on here so I’m surprised it closed down to be honest. It will be exciting to see what they do with it.”
Hannah Gorab, 18, said: “I think we don’t have a lot of nightclubs in the area. It’s more of a bar scene so I’m for it. I just think it looks kinda cool… Yeah, I’m for it.”
But not everyone was in favour. Local resident Claire Haigh said: “Nah. It will cause a lot of trouble won’t it? I work in the Card Factory. I don’t want people coming in drunk.”
Her daughter Amy said: “I’m fine with it!”
In documents submitted to Southwark Council, SM Planning, a consultancy working on the applicant’s behalf, outlined repair works that would take place if the nightclub moved in.
This would include removing graffiti from the façade and replacing windows that have been boarded up.
Local heritage enthusiasts have welcomed the plans to revive the building, especially given Historic England has previously refused to give it listed status.
Peckham Heritage Chairperson Claire Hegarty said: “We welcome the building being re-used and we welcome what looks like a light touch approach to the interior.”
She said the group wanted to know whether the replacement windows would be replicas of the originals or new plastic ones, with the former much preferable.
She added that, one day, Peckham Heritage would like to see an occupier that was committed to full-scale restoration.
“Pragmatically, [it’s good that] someone wants to inhabit it but, in the future, we’d want to see someone who would embrace the building as a whole,” she said.
Chris Allchin, spokesperson for local campaign group Aylesham Community Action, said it was “very supportive of bringing the buildings back into use” while “protecting their internal and external fabric”.
SM Planning was approached for comment.