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Call for change in planning laws to stop pubs being converted into food stores

PUBLISHED: 12:24 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 16:14 13 August 2014

The new Tesco Express store at the former Firs pub site,  Hellesdon. Picture: Denise Bradley

The new Tesco Express store at the former Firs pub site, Hellesdon. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

The Government has been urged to do more to protect pubs after new research revealed that closures have increased to 31 every week.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said a “simple” change in the law would mean that a planning application was always needed before a pub was demolished or converted into another use.

Local campaigns have been launched in areas including Hereford, Braintree, Chesterfield, Reading, Harrogate, Lowestoft and Bognor Regis to stop pubs being converted into supermarkets, often without success.

Tonight, Waveney District Council’s development control committee will once again be voting on the long-running saga about converting the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield’s London Road into a Tesco Express store.
The number of pubs closing has increased from 26 a week a year ago to 31 now, with suburban areas the worst hit, said Camra.
Thousands of real ale fans attending Camra’s Great British Beer Festival in London this week will be asked to lobby their local MP to help save pubs.
Tom Stainer, of Camra, 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 time for the Government to stop standing by while pubs are being targeted due to gaps in planning law.”
Among the Norfolk pubs which have either been turned into a convenience store or are planned to the converted are the Millhouse in Thorpe St Andrew, The Beehive in Sprowston, Hellesdon’s The Firs and also The Falcon, and The Wheatsheaf in Heacham, west Norfolk.
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said: “Councils already have powers available to them to protect pubs through article four planning directions, where there is a particular problem. However, excessive planning restrictions on changing the use of buildings would be counter-productive, leading to more empty, boarded up buildings.
“The best solution is for Camra and campaigners to keep using new rights to list their favourite locals as community assets - nearly 500 pubs have already been protected.
“The Government has also cut business taxes for community pubs, abolished the unpopular beer and alcohol duty escalators, axed the cider tax and made a pint eight pence cheaper than under the beer duty plans of the previous administration.”
For more on this story, see tomorrow’s paper.

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