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Thursday24 July 2014

MPs call for greater pub protection

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Pubs of architectural value in danger of being lost say MPs of all major parties

MPs have called on the government to increase protection for pubs of architectural value amid growing concerns about the number of pub closures in the UK.

Up to 18 pubs are closing in Britain every week, according to the Campaign to Protect Real Ale. MPs of all three main parties have raised concerns that architecturally important pubs are among those that are being demolished or converted without sufficient scrutiny.

Planning loopholes mean it is possible to demolish a free-standing pub without permission. Conversions to uses such as retail can also take place without applying to the local authority.

Greg Mulholland

Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West and chair of the all-party parliamentary Save the Pub Group

Greg Mulholland is Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West and chair of the all-party parliamentary Save the Pub Group. He said the group was lobbying the government to close both loopholes.

“Real conservation means that where a building can carry on fulfilling a role for which it is designed and built, then it should,” he said.

Mulholland said that a pub’s architectural value was often closely linked with its intended use, making existing protections insufficient in many cases. He referred to a pub in his local area had recently been converted to a Tesco Express.

“It looks so incongruous,” he said. “The building is still there but it doesn’t look right and it’s really destroyed the architectural finery it once had. Technically the outside is largely unchanged but the architectural appeal of the building has been very much downgraded.”

Chapel house - Manchester

Chapel house - Manchester, converted into a Tesco Express

Mark Spencer, Conservative MP for Sherwood, said he would be writing to English Heritage to stress the architectural importance of pubs and to ask what measures are being taken to ensure they are protected.

“I think it comes down to English Heritage realising that some of these buildings need preserving,” he said. “I don’t think they recognise sometimes the architectural merit of these buildings.

“The simple fact is they are often in areas where the residential value is greater than that of the pub. There will come a point at which someone will say, ‘Where have all these beautiful pubs gone?’ Somebody really ought to be doing an assessment of the properties we’ve got and which ones need protecting.”

Labour MP for Chesterfield Toby Perkins said he supported the calls for greater protection and echoed concerns about the number of supermarket conversions.

The shadow minister for small businesses, he said: “At the moment they are able to transfer from a pub to a supermarket without planning permission. There does need to be a review of whether planning regulations enable local authorities to have a serious contribution to what is happening.”

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Readers' comments (8)

  • The main problem is breweries charging exhorbitant rates to publicans for their tied-in supplies of alcohol. Enterprise Inns in Gloucestershire (and beyond?) is a prime example of this. No wonder pubs are closing as people cannot make a living out of them.

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  • Hypocrites! These MPs constantly support excessive increases in taxes on alcohol that are, according to CAMRA, the main cause of people staying at home rather than going to the pub.
    Labour's ridiculous 'beer price escalator', which the Tories have done nothing to repeal, as well as the usual hikes at Budget time have helped to make a pint of beer nearly £4, most of which is tax.

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  • Austin, check your facts, even CAMRA say that in a £3.50 pint only 32%.
    How much does alcohol related illness / injuries / violence etc cost the taxpayer via the NHS each year? £6bn+?

    Yet again, the baby boomers have had all the good times and now us younger generations have to pay the cost.

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  • james francis

    SoupDragon, would you not consider the fact that much underage drinking is down to sales of alcohol to minors by off licences etc. A well run pub is a controlled environment with staff that have an interest in ensuring that alcoholic drinks are sold responsibly. While there are poorly run pubs the best are places where a sense of community can be built (or maintained), either with or without imbibing of alcoholic drinks.

    The loss of social hubs in our society is something that is very damaging to the nation and while not everyone may like to use a pub they are a relevant and also traditional place for people to gather, meet and build contacts and social bonds. We are losing other such places, think of the loss of the truly independent local shops to the big 4 supermarkets and their smaller stores. We need sustainable communities, in the widest sense, and as such must identify and value those elements that bring people together and serve a social function.

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  • We've gone beyond the last chance saloon to closing time and demolition for so many pubs that the MPs' intervention looks pretty futile. Rebalancing the beer tax burden from pubs to supermarkets and off licences wouldn't hurt but don't expect Gideon to sup from that cup anytime soon. There are whole books and websites dedicated to the hundreds of ruined pubs in Liverpool alone:

    http://www.closedpubs.co.uk/lancashire/liverpool.html

    http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/Food-and-Drink/Pubs/Liverpools-last-chance-saloons

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  • D Ingram

    It is with an great sense of relief that I can report that the issue of pub losses is right at the front of the political agenda, finally. CAMRA and two local authorities made presentations to MPs of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, chaired by Greg Mulholland on March 5th. Last week Mike Benner and I as well as several councillors spoke to a gathering hosted by AM Tom Copley at City Hall about the need for local planning policy to protect pubs specifically. Islington has the most robust pub protection policy in London and is a model for others to follow. AM Steve O'Connell was responsible for a report into the threats to London's pubs and has secured backing on Tuesday from the Mayor for the London Plan to contain more robust regional planning protection for pubs. There are half as many pubs now in many London boroughs as there were 20 years ago, due for the most part, to the high value of land for development, mainly residential schemes. The bloodbath has to stop and politicians are ready now to make that happen. Dale Ingram, CAMRA London Region Pubs Protection Adviser (and historic buildings & planning consultant).

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  • D Ingram

    David Jones: as evidence of politicians' committment to cleaning up Britain's beleagured pubs sector, I would like to draw your attention to government's recent decision to implement a statutory code of conduct for the pubcos and breweries. This is intended to create a more level playing field between tenant/licensees and their pubcos, and to ensure that a tenant is no worse off that a publican operating free of tie. The tie has ensured that many pub businesses which would be perfectly viable if operated free of tie, are not, in fact viable, and the pubcos and some breweries are using this as a means of selling sites at inflated values for development (see my other post above). Greg Mulholland's Save the Pub Group would be pleased to provide further information if you need it, but it was widely reported in the press and a google will bring up the necessary links.

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  • D Ingram

    And, again, for Austin Clegg's benefit, the Beer Duty Escalator was abolished in the Budget this week, after a campaign by CAMRA saw 108000 people sign an epetition to government and lobby their own MPs at a mass Parliamentary event on Dec 12th last year. We are getting there.

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