Campaigners in Hampstead and Highgate using Localism Act to fight developers

Campaigners battling to save a 300-year-old pub are hoping to land a major blow against a developer’s bid to transform it into housing by having it listed as an “asset of community value”.

Residents leading efforts to protect The Old White Bear in Hampstead have applied for the new designation, which was brought in under the Localism Act and can give added protection to much-loved buildings.

The move comes as activists in Highgate attempt to use the same tactic to preserve the site of the recently-closed Highgate Garden Centre, Highgate Bowl.

The Old White Bear pub in Well Road, sold by Punch Taverns, is due to close on February 2 and could soon be lost forever if Camden Council gives new owner Braaid Ventures Ltd permission for a change to residential use.

But a group of residents who want it to re-open as a pub under new management hope their attempts to have it listed as a community asset by the council could create a significant obstacle to the developer.

Sam Young, 33, one of the leading campaigners who lives in nearby New End, said: “What impact it would have on the planning decision is relatively untested. But if the listing is granted, no change of use can be approved for five years. Although the owner has the right to appeal, it makes things harder for them. It would certainly be very positive for us.”

Maggy Meade-King, chairman of Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, is leading the bid to have the Highgate Bowl land listed as a community asset with Haringey Council.

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She said the designation would give campaigners first refusal if the land is put up for sale.

“If the owners want to sell, a stop will be put on it for six months to give us the chance to raise the money to buy it,” she said. “It gives us first dibs and is an attempt to show the owners we mean business.”

The Highgate residents want to use the land for a community gardening project and they are hoping to set up a charitable trust to pursue that aim.

The Old White Bear, meanwhile, has attracted the support of nearly 4,000 people, with about 3,700 signing two petitions to keep it as a pub and 200 more writing to Camden Council. Braaid Ventures Ltd wants to turn the building into a luxury six-bedroom house.

Mr Young, who runs a dog biscuit business with his wife Leean, added: “The Bear provides so many roles and we would not know any of our neighbours if it were not for the place.

‘‘It would be a huge loss if it disappears so we have a duty of care really for the local area to save it.”

Council officers are expected to decide on the two community asset listings in the next few weeks.