Pubs listed as community assets to protect them from developers

London’s pubs are a step closer to being protected from demolition or conversion into homes, shops or office blocks after Boris Johnson agreed to list them as “community assets” in his planning guidance for councils.

The Mayor told Tory Assembly members he would include a specific protection for community pubs to stop them being taken over by developers.

This would mean that the onus to protect a local pub would lie with borough planning departments rather than with the local community, as is currently the case.

More than two pubs are closing every day across the country and London has lost 1,300 in the past decade. Assembly member Steve O’Connell, a Conservative, said: “Good pubs are an asset to London’s communities. They deserve to be mentioned specifically in the Mayor’s forthcoming planning guidance to borough councils ­— at the moment they are covered as a broad generalisation.

“Unfortunately, a high number of these pubs are demolished or converted to other uses such as residential and retail services which radically alter community spaces and change the tone of the high street.”

A recent report by the Tories recommended that London’s boroughs should step in with stricter planning policies that favour protecting pubs as community hubs.

It also called for strict criteria when it comes to planning applications for changing the use of a pub or demolishing it. These might include the need to demonstrate that the pub has been vacant for at least two years, making sure the character of the street scene is not detrimentally affected, and retaining significant features of historic value.

It comes after a high-profile Chelsea pub was saved from redevelopment into a £20 million home after a huge campaign against its closure.

Residents including actor Hugh Grant and former footballer Sol Campbell were among more than 1,000 people who signed a petition against a planning application to turn the Phene Arms into a residence complete with steam room, swimming pool and gym complex.

Rodger Molyneux, director of The Hope in Carshalton, says that if a pub is lost part of the community dies.

“Listing a pub as a community asset helps to see off the property developers who are the main reason pubs go down. There’s plenty of help now but when we were doing it three and a half years ago, it was very different. A number of us stood around in the bar one night and thought we should get together and buy it. They pointed to me and said ‘you organise it’. It took months of legal ups and downs but we got it eventually. We’ve grown the business and made the place nicer. We made it how beer drinkers like a pub to be.

“I would hope that every local authority in the land will use their new powers to stop unwanted and unwarranted attacks on a great British institution.”

Originally published in the Evening Standard.

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