Last orders? How councils can protect local pubs from closure

The Lord Tennyson

The Lord Tennyson destroyed for student accomodation

The London Unity under threat of redevelopment thanks to greedy PubCo

The London Unity under threat of redevelopment thanks to greedy PubCo

The Tumbledown Dick  hand-tinted photo c 1911

The Tumbledown Dick under threat of demolition for Drive-Thru McDonald’s

Iris Murdoch once wrote of pubs as ‘universal places, like churches, hallowed meeting places of mankind’. This leads you to two inevitable conclusions: 1) she had a lovely turn of phrase and fully deserved that DBE, and 2) she had clearly never been to the Wetherspoons in Leeds city centre on a Friday night.

Like churches, however, pubs are facing a period of great challenge: the British pub is battling with diversifying consumer trends. The latest figures show that pub closures have slowed in 2012, but are still occurring at a rate of 18 a week, leading the Chief Executive of CAMRA to remark earlier this year that the future of Britain’s valued community pubs is ‘in jeopardy’.

Despite this, the emotion people have for community institutions like pubs sets them apart as a distinct political issue for local authorities. And recent planning policy suggests this is a concern shared by central government. The 2012 National Planning Policy Framework includes new responsibilities for local authorities to promote local pubs. According to the framework, planning policies and decisions should:

  • plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities (such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments; and
  • guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs. (NPPF, March 2012)

The public house has never been specifically identified in a document like this before, so its inclusion is significant. The Localism Act too raises similar issues. The new Community Right to Buy makes it possible for communities to list local pubs as assets of community value, and to bid for them should they come up for sale.

There is certainly a strong argument to be made for the social and economic value of the community pub. IPPR’s recent report Pubs and Places: the social value of community pubs, placed the wider social value of a sample of community pubs at between £20,000 and £120,000 per pub. It noted that pubs inject an average of £80,000 into their local economy each year, besides their cultural and practical community value.

With this in mind, some local authorities have already gone out of their way to safeguard the future of their local pubs. Cambridge City Council and the London Borough of Islington, for example, have both established their own ‘pub protection policies’ to make it more difficult for planning loopholes to be exploited to turn pubs into housing, or betting agencies.

Of course this won’t be a priority for all councils. Pubs have the potential to exclude as well as include, and councils will need to weigh their decisions against the views of their community. Nevertheless, if councils want to protect the pub, they now have the powers to do so. We hope those authorities that plan to use them will get in touch to share their work with us.

For more information go to:

Posted by Lauren Lucas on Local Government Information Newtwork.

Pub closures, although they have slowed, are still running at the rate of 18 a week.

They are being sold by zombie pub owning companies that are unable to pay their loans for redevelopment as Tesco supermarkets, housing, drive-thru McDoanald’s.

The Lord Tennyson, a fine example of a Victorian pub was sold last year against strong local opposition for redevelopment as student housing.

The London Unity is under threat of redevelopment for housing.

The Tumbledown Dick, an old coaching inn c 1720, is under threat of demolition for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The greedy Pub Companies will falsely claim the pub not viable. What is not viable for them, is not the same as the pub not being viable. CAMRA has shown that pubs sold freehold without economic burden of extortionate rent to a PubCo can flourish thereafter.

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2 Responses to “Last orders? How councils can protect local pubs from closure”

  1. Paul Says:

    Keith, the Social Return On Investment (SROI) stated in the IPPR pubs report – Is that an annual figure? I was wondering what the SROI of a McDonald’s is when compared to a valuable pub, music venue and community asset.

  2. keithpp Says:

    You will have to read the full report, off the top of my head I do not know, but at a guess annual, as otherwise a meaningless figure.

    I suggest IPPR pubs report is included as part of the evidence on The Tumbledown Dick.

    The New Economics Foundation has done a lot of work on sustainable local economies, plugging the leaks, recycling money within the local economy.

    The small market town of Market Rasen has done all the right things, focus on local shops, community, sustainable local economy, and as a result has within a space of only a few months turned around a failing town centre. On a recent visit early this week, Mary Portas said she was very impressed.

    Contrast with Aldershot and Farnborough where developers have been allowed to lay waste to both towns, aided and abetted by a rotten council that has contempt for local people and local businesses.

    A freehold pub, free of pubco, free of pubco tie, would be a local business, recycling money within the local economy. And be viable.

    A pub would certainly have community value, even more so the plans for The Tumbledown Dick which is to create a community space.

    I cannot see a McDonald’s has any community value, especially a Drive-Thru, as by definition it is pass straight through. Not somewhere where one would choose to meet. I was at the one in Farnborough a couple of years ago. I had to leave as the stench was making me want to throw up.

    All the factors for a McDonald’s would be negative.

    They drain money out of the local economy, the little retained is the minimum wage staff. And even that could be zero, if like Poundland unemployed are being forced to work there as unpaid slaves.

    McDonald’s is fuelling an obesity crisis, not just with their disgusting fat-laden food, but also disgusting sugary drinks like Coke with a high fructose content. The cost is externalised on the rest of society.

    A few years back I was at a meeting in the City of London with senior treasury officials. This was just before the banking crisis, before the triple dip recession. To say they were concerned at the cost to the Treasury of the obesity crisis would be an understatement.

    This is recognised in a government White Paper and the need for local planning authorities to control the spread of fast food outlets on health grounds. Islington already recognises this and has written in to their planning policies.

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