Local pubs could be protected under new link-up with Co-op

The Beehive pub at Sprowston. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Beehive pub at Sprowston. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

The city's most treasured locals could be better protected from being turned into supermarkets under new guidelines.

The Co-op has promised pub closures are not on their agenda and agreed to guidelines which give local communities a chance to have their say on the future of the UK's public houses.

Several premises in Norwich have closed in recent years, with big names in retail moving in – sometimes against the wishes of the community.

In August 2013, The Millhouse pub in Laundry Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, was re-opened as an East of England Co-op supermarket; March this year saw the Beehive pub, on Cannerby Lane, officially opened as a Co-op store; The Firs on Cromer Road is now a Tesco; and The Falcon, on Cromer Road, is now a Co-op.

The news that the Co-op has committed to protecting the UK's pubs in the link-up, the first major retailer to do so, has been welcomed by Camra, who have called on other businesses to follow suit.

Its chief executive, Tim Page, said: 'We're delighted that such a well-known retailer like the Co-op has demonstrated its commitment to communities and become the first to develop a set of principles to guide its store development with the needs and wishes of local people in mind.

'The Co-op clearly recognises the value that pubs add to the communities they serve – and also the fact that supermarket developments cannot only co-exist alongside pubs, but that both benefit each other.

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'We'd urge all retailers to be as forward-thinking and community -minded as the Co-op when it comes to planned developments which might have an impact on valued community locals.'

The cornerstones of the agreement are: The social value of the pub will be assessed by the Co-op; there will be greater transparency over plans; the community will have a voice in the process; planning permission processes will be followed; buildings which are an Asset of Community Value (ACV) will be investigated; groups wanting to run pubs themselves will be given the opportunity to do so; surrounding developments should enhance the building itself; and any difficulties should be discussed with Camra.

The principles do not relate to those pub where the supermarket has existing legal arrangements but will cover any new contracts after New Year's Day.

Steve Murrells, retail chief executive at the Co-op, said: 'Pub closures are not on our agenda. Our new commitments for future store developments serve to highlight the importance we place on working with communities.'

What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

The Norwich Evening News has been running a campaign, Love Your Local to try to help boost local pubs and helping them to thrive in the city.