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Former world record breaking athlete David Bedford in the running to save threatened Hampstead pub

PUBLISHED: 15:13 22 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:03 07 September 2010

A FORMER world record-breaking long distance runner has stepped up the pace in the battle to save a favoured Hampstead pub threatened with closure – by offering to take over the reins. David Bedford, 60, who is currently race director of the London Marath

A FORMER world record-breaking long distance runner has stepped up the pace in the battle to save a favoured Hampstead pub threatened with closure - by offering to take over the reins.

David Bedford, 60, who is currently race director of the London Marathon, is willing to step in and take over the running of the Duke of Hamilton pub and save it from being closed down at the hands of developers.

And to the delight of regulars, the fight to save the New End pub was given another significant boost this week when owners Criterion Asset withdrew their controversial planning application to convert the 250-year-old venue into two homes.

A snag in the fight to keep the pub open is the fact that the current lease expires in September. With current landlords Mary and Michael Wooderson looking set to retire, the pub could simply be boarded up and moth balled. But Mr Bedford, a former world record holder in the 10,000m race, has now thrown it a lifeline.

He told the Ham&High: "There are a number of things the owners of the pub could do. One of them is to offer someone else a new lease - someone who represents local residents so it could be run as a community pub by locals for locals. I am in touch with the owners and they are aware of my interest in this. Hampstead Village means a massive amount to me.

"My family have been here for 250 years. I feel I am a local and I want a decent pint of beer in a pub like the Duke. That is where the real community go to meet. I cannot remember a local issue that has had so much interest from the community."

Don't expect to see Mr Bedford pulling pints behind the bar though as he revealed he would prefer to get a manager in to run the pub.

His plan is supported by the Heath and Hampstead Society. Chairman Tony Hillier said: "If Mr Bedford wants to give me a call then we would be prepared to support him, as long as the pub operates within its framework hours."

Mr Bedford is due to chair a Save the Duke campaign meeting at 11am on Saturday at the Magdala pub in South End Green. Supporters of the pub are urged to attend.

There was another boost for the Save the Duke campaign when news filtered through on Monday that Criterion Asset, owned by the Wellington Pub Company, had withdrawn their application. Company chiefs had been told by council officers the proposals would be rejected because of concerns over the loss of a pub and the threat to an ash tree in grounds.

Hampstead councillor Chris Knight said: "This is the first step in the fight but the protesters must be on guard because I am sure the developers will come again."

The campaign to save the pub is backed by residents and the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) but current landlord and lease holder Michael Wooderson is not impressed.

He said: "The owners can do what they like with the pub, it is not my problem. I think it is all wrong. Six other pubs in Hampstead have closed so why not here. I have about 175 customers, whose names I know, yet 700 people objected. What is that about?


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