Bill Oddie among Hampstead locals urging council to stop Keats House's bid for film screenings and alcohol licence
PUBLISHED: 16:05 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 09 September 2019
Bill Oddie is among the Hampstead locals unhappy with Keats House's bid for a new licence, which could see it hold film screenings and serve alcohol for 200 guests until 10pm.
The licence will extend across the whole Grade I listed site, including the house, its library and the grounds. It was the former home of poet John Keats, one of the village's most famous residents.
The venue has told Camden Council it will hire portaloos to cater for events that will be attended by more than 100 people. The application says it will look to hold more than 100 events a year.
Mr Oddie moved into Hampstead more than 30 years ago. In his objection sent to Camden Council he said: "It seems that sooner or later every attractive venue applies for [a] liquor and music licence no matter how incongruous and inappropriate it is.
"I trust that the developers do not have their eyes on Keats House as a new heavy metal arena. There is plenty of music of many styles that is thrilling without blowing the roof off."
He ends by asking the council to support the venue as a "stylist, historic memorial to the poet himself" - adding that, "mind you, if he were in charge he and his mates would have probably turned it into an opium den. We should think ourselves lucky".
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He told the Ham&High that he thought it was "totally inappropriate" for the historic home. He added: "It is Hampstead's small size stately home. It has too great a history to have booze ups at the weekend."
Another person objecting is top lawyer Michael Sternberg QC who warns the council its decision could be open to judicial review if it approves the application.
The Heath and Hampstead Society, Dame Janet Suzman and Hampstead Town councillor Maria Higson have also lodged their concerns.
Yet broadcaster Piers Plowright said the move could breathe new life into the historic home. He said: "It hasn't been fulfilling its potential. It is lovely, the garden is fantastic, but it's like it's a bit of frozen history. It has no life in it. If you compare it with Burgh House, which is a vibrant place, it's not the same."
The application was initially supposed to be heard in June, but was withdrawn at short notice. It is due to come before Camden Council's licensing panel on Thursday.
The City of London Corporation turned down the Ham&High's request for an interview, but a spokesperson said: "[Our] officers have met with residents, neighbours and other local stakeholders to listen to their concerns.
"Any decisions about these proposals will take their views fully into account."