The Campaign for Real Ale group (CAMRA) are central to the growing movement for communities to take over ownership of the growing number of threatened British locals.
Prince Charles’ ‘Pub is the Hub’ programme is very active in this area, as is the Plunkett Foundation. One of the big worries they highlight is that developers can buy a pub then leave it boarded up for years while they battle with the local community over change of use. CAMRA’s report: ‘Saving Your Local Pub’, says:
‘There’s nothing to prevent the owner shutting the pub even if change of use is refused.
Indeed, many owners close pubs in advance of applications being submitted or determined. Nobody is obliged to keep a pub open, though if they try to use the pub for something else which needs permission then the planners can take enforcement action against them.
It’s not unknown for owners to close a pub, strip it out then “sit” on the property in the hope that the planners will eventually give way and allow change of use rather than see a building go to rack and ruin. Obviously this is a form of blackmail and you’d hope that the Council would stand firm but that doesn’t always happen.’
This is why we are in contact with our local council to get them to impose an Article 4 Direction on our much loved Queens’ Head.
CAMRA’s report ‘Public Houses: How councils and communities can save pubs’ says:
Changing the use of a building, or demolishing it altogether, requires that certain regulations are followed. Often it is the case that planning permission is necessary, which the Local Planning authority will deliberate.
For many changes of use, however, such as demolition or conversion to shops, betting shops and restaurants, no planning permission is required. These changes are covered by permitted development rights under the Town and Country Planning act (1995) and mean that a pub can be turned from an a4 use such as a pub, to an a1 use, like a supermarket, without the approval of the local planning authority. Over 208 pubs have been converted to supermarkets since January 2012.
The local authority does, however, have the power to remove these permitted development rights by imposing article 4 directions on a particular building, or on an area. Once these rights have been removed, that development decision needs to be deliberated by the local authority. ‘
The most pub-friendly council in the country
This is exactly what Wandsworth council have done. They are now known as the ‘most pub-friendly council’ in the country by removing permitted development rights from 120 of the boroughs bars and taverns.
It means these valued local venues can no longer be converted into mini-supermarkets, estate agents, homes or shops without the need for planning permission.
Wandsworth is the first local authority in the country to publish ‘Article 4 Directions’ on such a sweeping scale and the pioneering move could be copied up and down the country to help defend the nation’s vulnerable pub trade.
Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said:
‘Wandsworth’s pubs are now the best protected in the entire country and have a genuine defense against the relentless spread of mini-supermarkets and estate agents. We know how much our residents love their locals and in many cases they really are the epicenter of community life. I’m proud and delighted we’ve found a way to protect them. ‘
‘I very much hope that other councils will follow our lead by adopting pub-friendly planning policies and then stripping away permitted development rights from their local inns, bars and taverns. This could be a real turning point for our nation’s superb but vulnerable pub trade and Wandsworth is more than ready to share its approach with other authorities.’
Geoff Strawbridge, Greater London CAMRA Regional Director, said: “I would like to see every planning authority in the country follow Wandsworth’s exemplary initiative in protecting its pubs and bars by removing permitted development rights.’
It’s clear the Save the Queens Head campaigners are right at the cutting edge of the movement to protect our traditional British lifestyle.
Our pub has been at the heart of our community for nearly 350 years and we don’t intend to let it go.