Save the Pub Group

'Predatory purchasing': Co-op accused of breaking promise to protect viable pubs

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Predatory purchasing': Co-op accused of breaking promise to protect viable pubs

Related tags: Public house

The Parliamentary Save the Pub Group has accused Co-op of ‘predatory purchasing’, and breaking a promise not to pursue the conversion of viable community pubs.

The campaign group claims Co-op is looking to convert the Bristol House Inn, Weston-super-Mare, into a convenience store despite the pub having fierce backing from a community campaign group.

This year the Co-op and the Campaign for Real Ale drew up guidelines​, which affect applications from the start of 2016.

The retailer said then pub closures are not on its agenda, and the guidelines commit to listening to the community about the social value of each site.

'Disappointing'

Commenting, Greg Mulholland, chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, said: “It is very disappointing that in their attempts to close and convert the Bristol House Inn the Co-op have not only willfully ignored the principles they claimed to have agreed with CAMRA, but they have also broken a clear commitment made, in person, to MPs and peers of the Save the Pub Group.”

The Save the Pub Group had urged Co-op to seek the views of campaigners, rather than approach a pubco to establish if a venue is unviable.  

“Only a few months ago, that Co-op made a personal assurance that they would not take pubco claims of unviability as fact, yet here is the clear proof that they have taken Enterprise Inns’ word that the Bristol House Inn is not viable,” Mulholland continued.

“They have broken their word and also shown that the set of principles they drew up with CAMRA HQ are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Viable

The pub has a recently installed cider line, and campaigners were adamant the pub is a growing business and could be profitable if run on a different model. 

“The Co-op have been one of the most aggressive supermarket chains targeting and closing pubs in cynical ‘predatory purchasing’, exploiting absurd permitted development rights to shut pubs against the wishes of local people and impose a supermarket on them,” Mulholland said.

“This kind of behaviour contradicts what the Co-op claim to stand for, damaging local communities and taking away their community space.”

The Bristol House Inn is the only pub in the local area, Milton and Ashcombe and has been a pub for 80 years.

The Parliamentary Save the Pub Group have written to the Co-operative Group urging the retailer to rethink its pursuit of the pub.

Mark Hirst, Weston-super-Mare of CAMRA branch, said: “The Bristol House Inn is a great community pub, running charity fundraisers and serving good food and great ales.

"Given half the chance it can be a successful local pub, with footfall already on the rise, and it seems very short sighted than neither the Co-op nor Enterprise have recognised this.”

Co-op

A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “We are and continue to follow the principles agreed with CAMRA on the Bristol House and all other pub sites.  We conduct in-depth analysis of all sites, and in the case of the Bristol House Enterprise has confirmed that it is not commercially viable for them to continue to run this site as a pub.

“We have now submitted a planning application, which allows residents and interested parties to register their views on our proposals in the most democratic manner, and we look forward to the outcome.”

The retailer's guidelines drawn up with CAMRA were: 

  • Only develop pub sites using the planning permission process rather than relying on permitted development rights.
  • Seek to encourage developers to use the planning permission process rather than relying on permitted development rights to convert pubs into alternative uses.
  • Individually assess each trading pub offered as a lease or development opportunity to assess the pubs social value prior to an agreement to convert a site into a convenience store.
  • Give further investigation to pubs with an Asset of Community Value (ACV) listing ahead of any decision to proceed with a lease or redevelopment.
  • Make information public as soon as possible about sites in which it is the developer (not lease holder), and it will encourage developers to do the same.
  • Listen to the views of the local community – individuals, groups, including CAMRA branches, and local elected representatives and be willing to meet appropriate local representatives to discuss concerns.
  • Not stand in the way of a any group seeking to acquire and run a community pub.
  • Develop land adjacent to an existing pub in a way that enhances the viability of both the new convenience store and the existing pub.
  • Talk to CAMRA when exceptional circumstances mean it may not be possible to fully adhere to these principles.

Related topics: Property law

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