Staff and regulars were shocked when the Dyke Pub & Kitchen, Brighton, East Sussex, was transformed overnight into a second-hand furniture shop with no warning.
Dale Ingram, historic buildings and town planning consultant and director of Planning for Pubs, told The Morning Advertiser (MA): "The closure of the Dyke without warning to staff or customers, and its conversion to retail use, highlights a key failing in the amended planning rules (the 6 April general permitted development order) brought in by the Government in 2015.
“The amendment requires developers looking to use their permitted development rights to send a notice to the local authority notifying them of their intention to change the use of a pub to retail premises, offices or restaurant/café.
“If no response is received by the developer from the local authority that the pub has been listed or nominated as an ACV within 56 days, the change of use can take place."
The pub’s owners, Warrick Armsby-Ward and Martin Webb, are understood to have notified the local council of their intention to change the pub’s use from A4 (drinking establishment) to A1 (retail) on 20 May.
But, Ingram continued: “Crucially, unlike other planning applications, there is no obligation in the order requiring any publicity for the notice.
“Consequently, the notice was not recorded on the planning system, and neighbours and pub users were not informed and could therefore take no pre-emptive action.”
This, she said, highlighted the need for the Government to take immediate steps to address the anomaly.
Some members of staff were let go on the spot when they came into work at the Dyke last Sunday (4 September), with one team member claiming they only found out through a staff Facebook group.
In a letter to the Save the Brighton Dyke group, owner Martin Webb wrote that despite continually trying to make the Dyke a viable business, it had been losing approximately £5,000 per week at the time of closure
Locals were quick to protest the closure, picketing the building this Sunday (11 September) and calling to have it reinstated as a pub.
Despite the change of use having already taken place, an asset of community value listing (ACV) could still be on the cards, Ingram added.
“Contrary to local opinion, it is not too late for the community to make the ACV application and I urge them likewise to get going with it as soon as possible,” she said.
“Many closed pubs, some of which had been recently converted to other uses, have been listed as ACVs for the relevant planning and disposal rules under the Localism Act protection to bite.
“Many of these including, famously, the Chesham Arms in Hackney, east London, have reopened as pubs.”