Davis Coffer Lyons pubs agent Charlotte Wild told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser that in areas such as Clapham, Putney, Richmond and Hampstead, authorities are refusing A4 permissions to ensure a good tenant mix of retail, restaurants, day-time venues and pubs and bars.
She said, that coupled with an increase in the number of change-of-use applications, this is fuelling higher premiums, a significant increase in competition and a rise in the number of premiums secured for closed sites — leading to operators looking to buy outside of London instead.
Walkabout in Shepherds Bush, for example, was marketed with an asking price of £5m for the freehold and Endurance in Soho was bought for £500,000 for the Enterprise Inns lease (tied).
“Sites are becoming increasingly scarce and with no new opportunities coming forward, prices are only going to continue to rise,” she said.
“Landlords and councils are keen to ensure that areas don’t become ghost towns during the day and binge drinking hubs in the evenings.”
Fleurets head of pubs Simon Hall said: “It is a strange conflict that the likes of Westminster are on the one hand concerned about the loss of public houses for conversion to residential, but on the other hand restrict new applications for pub use.”
However, he said that a rise in sale prices is generally due to trading potential and wider economic factors, rather than down to a greater restriction on planning use.
Nick Lyell, associate of licensed leisure at Savills, said London councils are “certainly seen to be conscientious” at ensuring the arrival of a pub does not disrupt or damage the area and due to lack of space in the capital pubs are rarely built from scratch.
However, he said he has seen “savvy operators” convert otherwise redundant space, such as old railway arches, social clubs and town halls, into “new exciting places to drink”.
Simon Chaplin, head of restaurants at Christie + Co, said while the restrictions of planning permission for new pubs is a concern in some key locations, he cannot see the issue spreading across the nation, and many towns and cities are encouraging the “café culture”.