The Government is being urged to close legal loopholes allowing pubs to be demolished without planning permission, after new research has found over 200 British pubs have been converted into supermarket convenience stores since 2010.
A new report by CAMRA – the Campaign For Real Ale – revealed a “staggering” 206 pubs have been converted into supermarket convenience stores since the start of 2010, including 130 by Tesco, 22 by Sainsbury’s, and a further 54 by others including The Co-Operative, Asda and Costcutter.
Under the current planning laws – known as permitted development rules – any pub can be demolished or put to a different use without the need for planning permission, leaving residents and local councils powerless to fight back.
Providing the former-pub does not occupy more than 280 sq metres (3,000 sq ft), retail giants can bypass Sunday trading laws and remain open 24 hours.
Earlier this year, a parliamentary bill was proposed by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert to require the granting of planning permission before demolition or change of use of a pub, and won unanimous support from MPs in its first reading.
However the bill suffered a blow last month when plans for a second reading on October 26 were stalled.
Arguably, the loophole can be beneficial as it stops run-down and disused pubs from remaining empty for too long, allowing retailers to move in and boost the local economy.
However, it is clear that those lobbying the law change are keen to save profitable, much-loved community pubs from being forced out by the supermarket giants.
With 45 more of these pubs across Britain now reported to be at risk of future conversion, CAMRA’s chief executive Mike Benner has spoken out.
“Weak and misguided planning laws and the predatory acquisition of valued pub sites by large supermarket chains, coupled with the willingness of pub owners to cash-in and sell for development, are threatening the future of Britain’s social fabric,” he said.
“For years, large supermarket chains have shown a disregard for the well-being of local communities, gutting much-loved former pubs in areas already bursting with supermarket stores.
“The non-existent planning controls allow supermarkets to ride roughshod over the wishes of the local community. At a time when 18 pubs are closing every week this is damaging a great British institution.
“Unless action is taken by the Government to address the obvious loopholes in planning legislation, more local communities will be forced to give up their local pub without a fight, and seeing the pub signs of Red Lions and Royal Oaks being corporately graffitied over by supermarket empires will become an all too common sight.”
Has your local pub been converted to a supermarket store? Do you think the law needs to be changed? Let us know your thoughts and join in the debate.