Bid to help save community pubs in Norwich from demolition or change of use

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

The Tesco Express store at the former Firs pub site, Hellesdon. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant copyright 2011

Community pubs in Norwich could be handed a lifeline if the city council is given more powers to stop them being turned into supermarkets or demolished without the need for planning permission.

Of the 35 pubs lost in Norwich in the last decade, many have been converted to restaurants and other commercial uses without the need for formal planning permission for the change of use.

The city council is seeking a change in national planning regulations to prevent the change of use of pubs to supermarkets or their demolition without community consultation through the planning application process.

At present pubs can be turned into supermarkets without the new owners having to apply for planning permission.

The move follows on from a council resolution in September last year asking cabinet to submit a proposal to government under the Sustainable Communities Act seeking a change in national planning regulations.

The report seeks cabinet approval on Wednesday, December 10 for the content of the SCA proposal documentation before it is formally submitted to the Secretary of State.

Mike Stonard, cabinet member for environment, development and transport, said: 'We want to be able to protect pubs as the centre of the community, but we cannot do that under current legislation. That's why we have been lobbying so hard for this. We know this matters to a lot of people and we are keen to do what we can to protect our pubs.'

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Last year, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) called on the city council to request extra powers from Westminster to protect pubs.

Ian Stamp, pubs officer with the Norwich and Norfolk branch of CAMRA, said: 'CAMRA fully supports the council's proposal to strengthen planning rules to prevent the loss of community pubs to supermarkets and developers.

'It's clearly wrong that valuable facilities can be taken away from the communities they've served for decades, without those communities having any say in the matter at all.

''Use it or lose it' is not a good enough argument - pubs can be deliberately or otherwise run down under one operator or business model, but if given the opportunity of a new landlord or owner, could flourish. 'And once lost, no matter what the demand, these pubs will never return - how many residential developments or supermarkets have ever been converted back to pubs?'

Several former pubs in the Norwich area have been converted into different uses, with the former Firs pub in Cromer Road becoming a Tesco supermarket and the Millhouse in Thorpe St Andrew reopening as an East of England Co-op store.

The Norwich Evening News has, through its Love Your Local campaign, sought to highlight the pubs which are at the heart of our communities and to encourage people to use them or lose them.

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