Editor’s comment: Tell us the situation at Keats House

Bill Oddie is one of the Hampstead locals objecting to Keats House's new licensing application. Pict

Bill Oddie is one of the Hampstead locals objecting to Keats House's new licensing application. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

Keats House no doubt has a good reason for wanting to up its after-hours event schedule.

We know it's run by the City of London Corporation, which revealed in July that it had to save £30m across its operations by the 2020-2021 financial year.

But without making the reasons for this planning application explicit in its responses to the Ham&High, bosses at Keats House forfeit any sympathy they might have had from the many who are invested in its survival and protection as an asset for future generations.

If I can safely express any opinion about our investigation into the Finchley Road "boiler room" without giving our lawyers a heart attack, it is that it shows how arcane and secretive the world of business can be.

But we learn elsewhere in today's Ham&High that this need not be the case. When businesses, especially local ones that are viewed as community assets, are open about their problems, they mobilise sometimes significant community support.

Look at the Phoenix Cinema which, a year ago, drew the ire of not only its patrons and customers but even its own staff with plans for a takeover by a chain - but which, after asking the community for help, has done so well out of the goodwill of those same people that it is planning a second screen.

Local businesses and resources need not and should not be polished by PR firms or obscured by radio silence or murky, untraceable corporate structures, but should be open and transparent. Transparency builds trust, loyalty and respect, and those are all values that any operation should strive for.

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The alarming growth of the PR industry is driven partly by fear of news as selective, lazy and unfair, prone to conjuring scandals out of thin air. But the best cure for this is openness, not stonewalling: if the person in the street can easily fact check the news, the news can less easily get away with sensationalism because we, too, are open to scrutiny. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant.