Protecting Britain's Pubs

September 22, 2017




Should Britain’s pubs be protected by local councils from property developers ?


Colin Valentine national chairman of the beer drinkers lobby Camra says that local communities are  not being given the opportunity to voice their concerns when pubs are sold and transformed into flats, retail outlets or some other use. 


Mr. Valentine told  The Guardian:


“Camra is campaigning for planning rules to be strengthened so that full planning permission is required before a pub can be demolished or converted to another use,”


“In the meantime, we would like to see every planning authority in the country follow Wandsworth’s exemplary initiative in protecting its pubs and bars ... creating a fair and level playing field for pubs and their customers.” 


The plan is to have councils throughout Britain protect pubs from developers with the London borough of Wandsworth is now protecting its historic pubs from developers. The owners of the 120 pubs in the borough have to receive the approval by councillors before their pubs are pulled down or re-purposed. Camra says that pubs are closing at a rate of 21 per week in Britain and  three per week in London alone cannot be converted into other uses without planning commissions approval.


Wandsworth’s position is :


“Due to their historic or architectural value or because they make a positive contribution to their community”. 


Jonathan Cook, Wandsworth’s deputy council leader, said that for years the borough had lost:


“...thriving pubs ... and each time it’s really hurt the local community”. 


Mr. Cooke adding: “Wandsworth’s pubs are now the best-protected in the entire country and have a genuine defence against the relentless spread of mini-supermarkets and estate agents,”


One example was the pub Prince of Wales on Battersea Bridge Road, it was re-purposed as a mini-supermarket and the council could not intervene even though it is the local planning authority.


Wandsworth is now protecting its local pubs by imposing “article 4 directions” that requires pub owners to to get planning consent if they plan on changing the use of the property. 


Many pubs have been closed and sold off in London as a result of skyrocketing property valuations.


A property sales agent told the Guardian that in 2015 that selling a pub in north London as a residential site:


‘...could attract a price of up to £1m, while selling it as a trading pub would attract up to £450,000.’


Mr. Valentine stated: “In the meantime, we would like to see every planning authority in the country follow Wandsworth’s exemplary initiative in protecting its pubs and bars ... creating a fair and level playing field for pubs and their customers.”


The Business  of Beer in Britain


For the first time in its history The Good Pub Guide reports that London is no longer the most expensive place to drink a pint but rather it is now Surrey. 


Fiona Stapley, the Good Pubs Guide's editor in the Guardian says: 


“We’re not sure why this has happened, but Surrey is so affluent.’


"It may be that we have quite a lot of little local pubs in the guide that are London locals and they’re not as expensive as some of the big pubs [in the capital] that young people go to.” 


The Guide found that a pint in Surrey is 20p more than in the capital at £4.40. The least expensive pints can be enjoyed in Yorkshire and Herefordshire. Nationally the average pint costs £3.60 up 13p over the year. Pubs that make their own brand of beer are on average costing £3.09 per pint.


The Good Pub Guide reports other counties: 


‘Shropshire (£3.33 a pint), Derbyshire (£3.36), Cumbria (£3.38) and Worcestershire (£3.38), while drinkers will find their favourite brew more expensive in Sussex (£3.82), Hertfordshire (£3.81) and the Scottish Islands (£3.80). ‘


But it is not all about the beer.


Pubs are now increasing their services for customers by offering accommodations, catering services and delis for take away meals. Others are offering rooms for book clubs, live music and conferences.


Ms Stapley says: "You name it and pubs have thought of it. It's this entrepreneurial spirit that will keep pubs alive and kicking for years to come, despite all the doom and gloom around." 


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