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Historic musical pub formerly run by Fatboy Slim’s uncle faces demolition threat

Left to right: Lib Dem council candidates for Childs Hill, Jonathan Davies and Charlotte Henry, with Cllr Jack Cohen outside The Castle. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Left to right: Lib Dem council candidates for Childs Hill, Jonathan Davies and Charlotte Henry, with Cllr Jack Cohen outside The Castle. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
1:00 PM

A historic pub famed for its live music heritage could be demolished and replaced with flats after the council refused to grant it special protection.

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Denis Cook, in The Castle pub shortly before its closure. Picture: Nigel Sutton.Denis Cook, in The Castle pub shortly before its closure. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Barnet Council rejected an application to list The Castle in Finchley Road, Childs Hill, as an asset of community value earlier this month following a campaign to protect the building.

It is now feared the pub and its surrounding land will be snapped up by a developer who would be free to demolish it and put up luxury properties.

Childs Hill councillor Jack Cohen, who spearheaded the campaign to protect The Castle, said: “There’s been a pub on the site since the 1700s. It’s a landmark site because it’s very prominent and well-loved by the locals.

“People came from far and wide to listen to good bands and people used to describe it as iconic. It’s a place where up and coming bands could come out and practice in front of a live audience. It’s the only pub between Golders Green and Swiss Cottage.”

The pub has sat derelict since closing in December 2012 when former landlord Denis Cook, 67, was forced to leave the business after the building’s former owner, Greene King brewery, sold the site to a property developer.

Mr Cook, whose nephew is DJ Norman Cook, known as Fatboy Slim, spent £250,000 renovating the pub after he became landlord in November 2009 and attempted to appeal to wide sections of the community – introducing an all-kosher food menu in 2012.

During his tenure, Mr Cook attracted a host of well-known musicians to play at The Castle including Albert Lee, Georgie Fame, Wilko Johnson and, shortly before the pub’s closure, John Lennon’s first band The Quarrymen.

“I wanted to bring it back to its former glory,” said Mr Cook. “I heard stories of Marc Bolan and Shane MacGowan going there back in the day.

“I’m not proud of the fact I will be the last landlord of The Castle, that was not a part of my CV that I wanted. I was very saddened by the whole situation. I love that building.”

Cllr Cohen said he couldn’t see “any hope” of saving The Castle and slammed Barnet Council for not protecting it.

“I’m beginning to think that the Conservatives in Barnet have written off this part of the borough,” he said. “People down in Childs Hill want a life and don’t want to have to keep fighting for their amenities.”

Cllr Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access and partnerships, who made the decision to reject The Castle as a community asset, said: “As someone who had visited that pub many times before, I struggled to see the legitimacy of listing it as a community asset.

“It was a run-down pub that had seen better days. It was clear the times I’d been that it wasn’t being used by the community.”

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