London Assembly member calls for legislation to stop pub conversions

By Gurjit Degun

- Last updated on GMT

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Steve O'Connell: "You’re whistling in the wind unless you get something in legislation”
Steve O'Connell: "You’re whistling in the wind unless you get something in legislation”
A Conservative member of the London Assembly is calling on the Government to introduce legislation to block community pubs being turned into supermarkets.

Steve O’Connell — who launched a report earlier this year campaigning for the protection of pubs facing demolition or change of use — was speaking exclusively to the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.

Full planning permission is required for a pub to be turned into housing, and O’Connell is calling for this to be strengthened in planning policies in boroughs across London, as well as in the London Plan — the over-arching planning guide for the city.

However, O’Connell said it becomes “trickier” when blocking a pub-to-supermarket conversion as no change-of-use permission is needed.

“What needs to be done is [to] push Government, and I urge the planners upstairs [in the Greater London Authority, GLA] and others [to do so], through their MPs,” said O’Connell.

“You’re whistling in the wind unless you get something in legislation,” he added.

Starting the conversation

O’Connell admitted he is not confident that such legislation will be introduced because there are more jobs created in superstores.

“However, what we want to do is to start the conversation in this [GLA] building,” he said.

“Just because it’s going to be difficult doesn’t mean you don’t have the conversation and start the debate.”

O’Connell also wants the upcoming London Plan to include a specific reference to the protection of community pubs.

“Within his [Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s] planning document he talks of communities and neighbourhoods and the need for strong neighbourhoods.

“What I’ve asked is for clear reference to the benefit of community pubs. This will help start the debate.”

In March, O’Connell called for all London boroughs to adopt stringent criteria when considering the redevelopment or demolition of pubs in a report. He told the PMA that, after a meeting with planners at the GLA, he will send the report to all boroughs.

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