Calls made for council to step in and protect Portsmouth pubs from extinction

The Contented Pig pub in Fratton Road in Kingston, Portsmouth
The Contented Pig pub in Fratton Road in Kingston, Portsmouth
Professor Dominic Tweddle

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Calls are being made for Portsmouth City Council to step in and protect pubs from extinction.

Ukip wants the authority to explore whether it can buy buildings, put up for sale by breweries, that are at risk of being turned into supermarkets or flats.

Group members insist it is important action is taken to stop such venues disappearing as they are historic and part of the city’s heritage.

The council, in buying up under-threat pubs, would become the freeholder and collect rent from the tenant to ease the burden on taxpayers.

The proposal will be put by deputy Ukip group leader, Councillor Steve Hastings, in the form of a notice of motion at the next meeting of the full council on Tuesday.

Cllr Hastings said he wants to raise the issue as he used to supply cleaning products for pubs and would listen to publicans’ concerns.

‘This is something that has been a bugbear of mine for many years,’ he said.

‘A pub in many cases is the focal point of a community.

‘If the council was to become landlord then it could help that business thrive and continue to be a community pub.

‘They wouldn’t then be tied to a brewery or pub company to get their beers, and they would be able to get local beers and that helps local employment. They would be able to get their food from local food suppliers.’

‘A pub company takes quite a percentage of the bottom line and that starts to eat away so badly on a pub’s ability to live.

‘They become disillusioned and tenants then start to run the pub badly through no fault of their own.’

Ukip group leader Cllr Colin Galloway is backing his colleague’s notice of motion.

He said: ‘A pub is not just a place to go and get drunk, it’s a community, social centre.

‘You go to catch up with your mates and see what is going on locally.’

Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold Tavern, in Albert Road, Southsea, said the idea was worth exploring.

‘We all know Tesco has first dibs on most pubs,’ he said.

‘But for the council to try and do this, it could be an option. There’s no harm in exploring it.’

But Cllr Luke Stubbs, Tory cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, said there would be too many risks involved in snapping up pubs that weren’t viable.

‘It would cost taxpayers a fortune, especially if you buy marginal pubs that are not viable,’ he said. ‘If it added up then it would be a nice thing to do, but it doesn’t.’

Political moves

WORK has already been done to ensure local authorities do more to protect pubs against development.

This year, a dossier was produced by the Local Government Information Unit which says councils should try to stop people redeveloping a pub without planning permission.

The Public Houses: How Councils and Communities Can Save Pubs report, commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale also says it is important pubs are put on a council’s list of ‘community value’.

The Fox & Hounds in Denmead, for instance, has been taken over by a community co-operative.

As reported in The News, it marked the end of a battle to stop developers demolishing it and building four luxury homes in its place.

Portsmouth City Council’s deputy leader Cllr Luke Stubbs previously admitted, though, that it has limited powers to prevent redevelopment of a pub site, given there are still lots in the city compared to other urban areas.

Lib Dem councillor Darren Sanders, pictured, the party’s parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North, is pushing for changes to be made in planning terms.

But he admitted there would be problems with the city council becoming landlord of pubs, as it is also the authority which approves licensable activity.

‘If we are going to license the pubs we own, there would be a real conflict of interest,’ he said.

‘But I think Ukip are right to raise the issue of how we try to stem the decline of pubs in the city. For me, it’s about trying to develop protection in planning law.’

To read The News’ view on this click here.