‘Cometh the hour, cometh the excuse’: Camden’s finest hour as it is outplayed by local pub in contest over A-board.
On the facade of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, there rests a ladder against the wall which has not been moved since 1757. In that year, Sultan Ottoman III issued a decree which divided the church between six different denominations, in an effort to resolve the ownership disputes between them. Known as the ‘Status Quo’, part of that decree stipulated that no change to the church could take place without all six denominations agreeing to that change.
Since that time, the ladder has remained in place unmoved, as no agreement has been reached as to what should be done with it. Having been there since at least 1728, it has become known as the ‘immovable ladder’.
Fast forward to Camden in 2020 and history is repeating itself. Disputes between the warring denominations of the Incompetent Church of Camden, the Boozing Church of the Dolphin, and the Irritated Church of Local Residents have been ongoing for more than a year.
The dispute relates to the illegal advertisement schemes of the Dolphin Public House on Tonbridge Street, which has taken to affixing its advertisements to other buildings, placing A-boards on roads far from the pub, and chaining its A-boards to public property.
Display of advertisement of any kind requires planning permission, while display of A-boards must take place on the private property of the business in question. But for many years, the Dolphin have flouted these laws and placed their A-boards on different roads throughout the neighbourhood, even drilling into other buildings to attach illegal signage.
Camden began investigating the legality of this scheme back in Summer of 2019. The Dolphin were warned that placing their A-board on Euston Road many metres from the pub was illegal, and persisting in this behaviour would result in enforcement action, and the possibility of the loss of their license.
But despite continued warnings, the Dolphin have capitalised on Camden’s incompetence, laziness, and inability to actually achieve anything, in order to flout the law and continue their scheme throughout the entirety of the year-long enforcement investigation. And following lockdown, Camden’s officers have finally given up on taking enforcement action at all.
Following warning of enforcement action in the summer of 2019, the Dolphin restricted their advertisement efforts only to Sundays. Camden’s officers complained that by Monday morning, the A-board had been removed, and so no enforcement action could be taken.
Almost every Sunday for the following few months, timestamped photos of the repeated offence were sent to Camden’s investigating officer.
Then he decided enough was enough. The officer visited the Dolphin, and informed them that continuing to attach that A-board to the post would result in enforcement action, with the possibility of their license being lost.
The Dolphin took note, and pondered their next move.
Camden had only said that attaching that A-board to the post would result in enforcement action. So why not just get a different A-board, and attach that to the post instead?
Camden were in disarray; they had not expected such an ingenious foe. They came back and informed the Dolphin that attaching any kind of advertisement to that post would result in enforcement action.
So, thought the Dolphin, why not just put an advertisement nearby, but not actually attach it to that particular post?
The Dolphin exceeded all expectations: they split an A-board in half, leant one half against the Standard Hotel, and one half against Camden Town Hall itself.
Photos were sent to Camden. But they complained that with the onset of lockdown, it was impossible to take enforcement action.
Following lockdown, the Dolphin sensed the air of lawlessness about London, the increased traffic on Euston Road, and the general willingness within Camden to blame anything on Covid.
So following a year of cat-and-mouse with Camden’s enforcement, the Dolphin decided to resume their illegal scheme as usual. They simply chained their A-board to the original post as they had done before any investigation.
Camden’s investigating officer, now a year deep into the case, was notified.
‘I drove past the location this week,’ he said, ‘the A-board is fasten to the post and is firmly secured… is this still a matter of concern?’
‘….businesses have been severely affected by the corona virus and can understand why the A board has been brought back.‘
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Excuse
Following a year of enforcement action, Camden have successfully achieved nothing. And when Camden’s investigating officer finally witnessed the crime in person, he simply drove on by and blamed it on Covid. As the saying goes in Camden: cometh the hour, cometh the excuse.
But we should not despair by any means: we are surely seeing history in the making: Camden’s own immovable A-board, first recorded on Save Bloomsbury in 2020. Perhaps 250 years from now tourists getting off the Eurostar will flock to take photos of this Elizabethan relic, which despite a 250 year investigation has not been moved a single time.
Or perhaps following this success, the Dolphin has greater ambitions. They already have three illegal advertisements, why not build up an army of them all throughout the borough? Or drill signage into the Town Hall? There’s no need to worry about that inconvenience known as planning law.
At least for now we can rejoice in the fact that the A-board is ‘firmly secured‘ to the current post.