Planning law change would save many of our pubs

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For some pub chains it seems property development is more lucrative than selling beer or food – and certainly more important than the pub being a cornerstone of the community.

The ‘local’, has been at the heart of British life for centuries. But it is the 21st century which has seen off hundreds of them and changed the emphasis of life in many urban neighbourhoods and villages.

Yes, in many cases it was the landlord’s or the owner’s fault.

They ruled over unwelcoming dives which seemed to be run almost as private members’ clubs, establishments where the members appeared to be largely disreputable men.

Going back to the 1970s and ’80s we can all think of several such places in Portsmouth.

But there were countless others – now converted into flats or convenience stores – which had moved with the times and upped their game, but which were still flogged off under the noses of the locals who loved them and used them.

Yesterday the government was defeated in the Commons by a combination of Labour and rebel Tory and Lib Dem MPs, on a measure which could save some of the pubs owned by the big pub companies. Landlords will now be allowed to buy beer from anywhere not just the chains that own the premises.

But it will be at least five years before this takes effect. Five years too late for many pubs.

Meanwhile, and with another 13 pubs closing across the Portsmouth area in the past year, we support moves to change planning law. A pub company does not need planning permission to convert it to other uses.

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock says two pubs are converted into mini supermarkets every week without local people having a say. He says: ‘This means many healthy and viable pubs can be converted or demolished, despite the social, financial and historical value that many public houses provide.’

If we want to save this British institution, we’ll drink to a law change which bans this planning anomaly.

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