Pubs thrown lifeline as government pledges to do more to help them

The Leopold Tavern landlord Stuart Ainsworth
The Leopold Tavern landlord Stuart Ainsworth
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Pubs have been thrown a lifeline after plans were revealed giving them extra protection.

The government has announced it wants to draw up legislation ensuring pubs on a ‘community value’ list are not demolished or redeveloped unless planning permission by councils is granted.

Currently, the law states locals can be changed into shops, supermarkets or betting shops without the need for any approval.

Some are now urging for the proposal to be passed to ensure pubs get added protection – while others say it doesn’t go far enough.

Rob Stark is director of The Fox & Hounds Denmead Co-operative, which owns The Fox & Hounds pub.

The group came together to raise £500,000 to take over and refurbish the pub, which has been placed on the community value register.

Mr Stark said: ‘English country pubs are unique in the world and the government should do all it can to safeguard them.

‘There are some that can’t be safeguarded because they are in the wrong position, or can’t work, but in general, a pub does prove a local community focal point.

‘There are too many disappearing.

‘They are targeted by developers because they are normally decent-sized plots of land or supermarkets move in.’

For a pub to get on a list of community value, a form with the names of at least 21 residents needs to be sent to their local council explaining why it should be included.

Councillors would then decide if that particular pub is an integral part of the community and should be protected.

MPs had been put forward an amendment to the government’s suggestion and believed all pubs and not just ones on a community value list should get planning protection.

But this was outvoted in the Commons by 293 votes to 245 – with Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage and Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery being among the objectors.

But Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold Tavern in Albert Road, Southsea, said: ‘I think all pubs should need planning permission to be turned into something else.

‘If I want to open a new pub, I have to get planning permission, and the same should be for supermarkets.

‘The community value list is fine, provided you get enough people to sign it.’

Patrick Noonan, landlord of The Clarence Tavern in Gosport, said: ‘If a pub that is of value to the community, you shouldn’t be allowed to do anything with it.’

Calls for the government to give pubs protection before election

BEER campaigners are urging the government to ensure plans to give pubs planning protection go ahead before the general election.

Tim Page, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: ‘We welcome the government’s announcement that they will extend planning protection to pubs listed as assets of community value as a significant step in the right direction.

‘We will be pressing ministers to fulfil their promise to enact this change before parliament dissolves for the general election.’

There are around 600 pubs in the UK which have so far been put on a list of community value. ‘Clearly we are disappointed that the government has not heeded our call for planning protection to be given to all pubs,’ Mr Page said.

‘It is only right that local people get a say through the planning system before a pub valued by the community is lost forever and we will continue to make this case.’

Community pubs minister Kris Hopkins outlined the government’s formal proposal.

In a statement to the Commons, he said: ‘We therefore plan to bring forward secondary legislation at the earliest opportunity so that the listing of a pub as an asset of community value will trigger a removal of the national permitted development rights for the change of use, or demolition of those pubs that communities have identified as providing the most community benefit. This provides the right balance between protecting valued community pubs, but avoiding blanket regulation which would lead to more empty and boarded up buildings.’