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12/08/2014

CAMRA calls for change to planning law to protect pubs

Words: Sam Waddicor

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has called for planning law to be tightened to stop pubs in England and Wales being demolished or converted into shops.

CAMRA has also launched a new campaign at this year's Great British Beer Festival, called Pubs Matter, asking festival-goers to lobby their local MP.

Pubs currently fall into the A4 planning use class that means they can be converted into shops (A1), banks (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), office space (B1) or be demolished - all without planning permission. CAMRA want this hanged so that developers at least have to apply for planning permission before being able to convert a pub.

According to figures from CAMRA, two pubs a week on average have been turned into supermarkets since 2012, in conjunction with 31 pubs closing every week. The body also says that pubs support more than one million UK jobs and inject an average of £80,000 into their local economy yearly.

The government hassaid that councils already have powers available to protect pubs.

Stephen Langdon, part of a group of locals trying to save the Maiden Over pub in Reading, said: “We found out just a couple of weeks ago that our valued local pub is shutting. My first thought on learning that Tesco were involved was that they would struggle to get planning permission for change of use – I was stunned when I learned that there was no requirement for this at all.

"The reality is that our local pub, a genuine community venue and the only public meeting place within a large residential area, is very likely to disappear, and the local community has had scarcely any opportunity to voice an opinion on the matter.

CAMRA's head of communications Tom Stainer said: "Popular and profitable pubs are being left vulnerable by gaps in English planning legislation as pubs are increasingly being targeted by those wishing to take advantage of the absence of proper planning control. It is utterly perverse that developers are able to demolish or convert a pub into a convenience store or many other uses without any requirement to apply for planning permission.

"A pub is an entirely different proposition to a convenience store, estate agent or funeral directors, and the planning system needs updating to reflect this fact. It is wrong that communities are left powerless when a popular local pub is threatened with demolition or conversion into a Tesco store.”

The campaign to date has 44 MPs supporting the early day motion, EDM 208.

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