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London council protects its pubs from conversion

Words: Laura Edgar
Grand Union

Wandsworth Council has removed permitted development rights from 120 of the borough’s bars and taverns.

These pubs can no longer be converted into mini-supermarkets, estate agents, homes or shops without the need for planning permission.

The council says it is the first local authority in England to grant Article 4 Directions on this scale.

In recent years, a number of local pubs have been converted into other uses without planning permission from the local authority because the owner had permitted development rights.

But following Wandsworth Council’s move, all 120 pub owners affected will need to seek approval from the town hall before changing the use of a pub building or knocking it down.

In preparation for the Article 4 Directions, the council said it has already approved new planning guidance that specifically recognises the historic, architectural and community value of Wandsworth’s pubs. The guidance gives councillors “valid grounds” to refuse applications to convert any of the borough’s 120 pubs into another use.

Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said: “Wandsworth’s pubs are now the best protected in the entire country and have a genuine defence against the relentless spread of mini-supermarkets and estate agents. We know how much our residents love their locals, and in many cases they really are the epicentre of community life. I’m proud and delighted we’ve found a way to protect them.”

Cook said he hopes other councils will adopt pub-friendly planning policies, stripping away permitted development rights from pubs, bars and taverns.

“This could be a real turning point for our nation’s superb but vulnerable pub trade, and Wandsworth is more than ready to share its approach with other authorities,” he concluded.

Geoff Strawbridge, Greater London Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) regional director, said: "I would like to see every planning authority in the country follow Wandsworth’s exemplary initiative in protecting its pubs and bars by removing permitted development rights."

The pubs now protected include The Alma and Grand Union in Wandsworth, and The Bricklayers Arms in Putney.

The full list and a map of the pubs can be found here. 

Image credit | Rich Grundy