Pub campaigners ask why Old White Bear remains shut 18 months after being saved
'Asset of Community Value' stays closed despite being saved from housing conversion
16 March, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
The Old White Bear before it closed
THIRSTY campaigners who fought to save a historic Hampstead pub are urging the building’s owners to set a date for its reopening.
Regulars at the Old White Bear point out that it’s been 18 months since it was announced the bar would be brought back to life after years of worries that it would be turned into flats. Bar operator Dan Brod says he is ready to reopen the pub but has been unable to sign a new lease with a private school which has bought the site in Well Road.
“My aims are the same as they were when I first came across this project when the pub originally closed – that is to get it open as a pub again,” said
Mr Brod, whose firm, Bramley Bars, runs pubs in Wiltshire. “I am waiting for a lease and it has been frustrating as I don’t see why we can’t open it now. My offer is on the table. Let’s get this moving.” His proposals have been welcomed by the Save The Old White Bear group, who campaigned against the building being turned into flats in 2013.
The wait for pints to be poured again in the pub, however, has gone on and on. After a property firm walked away from the site when it failed to get planning permission for a homes conversion, it has been owned for the last two years by Heathside Preparatory School, in nearby New End, which is using the upper floor as classrooms.
It is, however, listed at the Town Hall as an asset of community value for use as a pub. Save The Old White Bear group chairman Phillip Matthews told the New Journal there was a creeping sense of frustration over delays. “When the school asked for change of use for the upstairs, within the application was a clear and unambiguous statement that a lease for the pub had been agreed,” he said. “It was granted in January 2017. “We have since written to Camden Council to ask why the pub has not been opened, in light of this claim. Our position is that the community lost a further pub after many closures in the area. It serves a really important role in an area of mixed social and private housing and a working population.”
He added: “It was a valuable pub to our community and it has been a massive loss since it closed. It is listed as an asset of community value and that must be respected. We do not understand why there are still delays.”
Actor Peter Egan and comedian Ricky Gervais were among supporters of the pub, which has been registered at the address for more than 300 years. Marc Hutchinson, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: “We are very disappointed that this asset of community value has still not reopened as a pub, as was intended and promised by the owner, and we feel the community are entitled to an explanation for the years of continuing delay.”
Melissa Remus Elliot, headteacher at Heathside Prep, could not give a precise timescale for the pub’s reopening when contacted by the New Journal. But she added: “The news on the pub is that, if all goes according to plan, it should be open soon-ish. “There is a lot of work to do, but we are excited to be helping to get our beloved White Bear open this year.”