Demand from beer group for “last line of defence” against closures.
A new report launched today by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) encourages councils in England to become the last line of defence for pubs, whilst highlighting that more power needs to be transferred to councils from central government.
With 28 pubs a week closing across the UK the report could save hundreds more from closing forever by empowering local councils to block pub conversions from would-be developers. CAMRA’s Head of Communications Tom Stainer said: “CAMRA is grateful to the trailblazing councils who are leading the way in pub protection but, it is still too few, we want all councils to follow suit and we hope the ideas in this report provide a useful starting point. Pub closures are not as simple as a badly run business or a changing marketplace, there are many external factors and pressures which have a bearing on pub survival.”
The report calls on councils to value the role pubs play in communities by adopting strong pub protection policies in locals plans, listing pubs as Assets of Community Value and using ‘Article 4 Directions’ which ensure that planning permission is always required for change of use of a pub.
But CAMRA is not letting central government off the hook. CAMRA wants government to bolster local councils’ toolkit of powers by reforming national planning law so communities and councils always have a say before a pub is demolished or converted into another use. “Weak planning laws are a major contributing factor to pubs closing and central government need to give councils greater powers so they can do more to protect pubs from developers. At the moment Ministers are letting down communities by allowing pubs to be demolished or converted to a whole range of retail uses without any planning permission being required,” Tom Stainer added.
It is clear that there is support from councils for greater protection for valued community pubs, with 45 out of 49 councils which took part in a recent survey considering pubs as valued community amenities worthy of protection. Despite this 33 out of the 49 councils felt that existing planning regulations failed to give sufficient protection to pubs from change of use or demolition.
Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said: “Pubs play a vital role in many communities. But across the country this precious resource is being lost at an alarming rate. Councils play a crucial part in protecting pubs and we hope that local authorities will draw inspiration from the examples featured in this report and act now to prevent our pubs from disappearing forever.”