“Bad news for communities” says drinkers’ chief.
Real ale pressure group CAMRA has reacted angrily to the news that local brewers Marston’s has sold more than 200 of its pubs to a retail company despite announcing large profits.
The Wolverhampton-based brewing concern today announced that it would be selling 202 pubs around the country to real estate investment trust NewRiver Retail in a deal said to be worth £90 million. NewRiver then plan to convert the pubs to supermarket convenience stores and restaurants.
Of particular concern to CAMRA is that these pubs are predominantly the small, community-based locals that traditionally formed the bedrock of Marston’s business under its previous incarnation as Wolverhampton & Dudley, which was renowned for its estate of Banks’s pubs. In announcing the deal, the company’s chief executive Paul Findlay said. “We are moving away from the smaller drinks only pubs, or boozers, to more food focused and larger pub-restaurants.”
However, CAMRA has hit back angrily at the move, with chief executive Mike Benner saying that “This sell off is bad news for communities which may lose their pubs as a result. New River Retail have seriously underestimated the challenges and opposition that they will face in trying to sell profitable community pubs and convert them into convenience stores and other uses.” He also warned that “Local residents and pub campaigners will be mounting sustained opposition to prevent their valued local pub being converted into a supermarket. Our message to New River Retail is that they should be focused on reviving existing retail spaces rather than seeking to destroy valued community pubs serving local communities and we call on them to take every step to sell pubs as going concerns.”
Mr Benner went on to say, “The fact that this sale has happened is a result of a dysfunctional planning system which means pubs are regarded as easy pickings by developers. No-one can convincingly argue that supermarkets provide a similar community amenity to a local pub. CAMRA will be using this development to press home the case for tougher planning protection for pubs and for greater consumer consultation when they are threatened with alternative use.”
The brewer also reported full-year pre-tax profits of £69.8 million compared with a £135.5 million loss last year.