Failure to close planning loopholes as pub closures rise to 31 per week.
A new campaign launched by CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival today hopes to see 55,000 festival-goers lobby their MP, as the UK pub closure rate rises to a whopping 31 per week.
The CGA–CAMRA Pub Tracker figures are being released as part of CAMRA’s new ‘Pubs Matter’ campaign, which calls on the Government to recognise that pubs matter and make a simple change to the law in England so a planning application is always required before a pub is demolished or converted into another use.
Currently pubs can be demolished or converted to supermarkets, estate agents and a range of other uses* without planning permission.
Tom Stainer, CAMRA Head of Communications said, “Popular and profitable pubs are being left vulnerable by gaps in English planning legislation as pubs are increasingly being targeted by those wishing to take advantage of the absence of proper planning control. It is utterly perverse that developers are able to demolish or convert a pub into a convenience store or many other uses without any requirement to apply for planning permission. A pub is an entirely different proposition to a convenience store, estate agent or funeral directors and the planning system needs updating to reflect this fact. It is wrong that communities are left powerless when a popular local pub is threatened with demolition or conversion into a Tesco store.”
This week CAMRA will be encouraging festival-goers at the Great British Beer Festival to take action and lobby their MP using specially designed postcards – these can then be posted into boxes around the venue to be sent to the relevant MPs by CAMRA, who in the past have had huge success with similar campaigns such as the scrapping of the Beer Duty Escalator.
“It is time for the Government to stop standing by while pubs are being targeted due to gaps in planning law, which is why this week we will be empowering 55,000 festival goers to call for the Government to take much needed action – as well as highlighting the pubsmatter.org.uk website on the back of every one of our 1000 GBBF volunteer t-shirts.” Tom Stainer added.
The weekly pub closure rate has risen to 31 per week from 28 as of December 2013 and 26 in March of the same year – with suburban areas being the worst hit, with 3% of the nation’s suburban pubs being lost over the last 6 months.
Stephen Langdon is part of a group of locals trying to save the Maiden Over pub in Reading, which has been threatened with conversion to a Tesco supermarket, “We found out just a couple of weeks ago that our valued local pub is shutting. My first thought on learning that Tesco were involved was that they would struggle to get planning permission for change of use – I was stunned when I learned that there was no requirement for this at all. The reality is that our local pub, a genuine community venue and the only public meeting place within a large residential area, is very likely to disappear, and the local community has had scarcely any opportunity to voice an opinion on the matter.”
The Pubs Matter campaign is being launched at the Great British Beer Festival, CAMRA’s flagship event. The festival will see over 55,000 thirsty beer lovers attend the week-long event, which will feature over 900 different real ales, ciders, perries and international beers across a total of 29 different bars.