All Southwark pubs given ‘extra layer of protection’ by council

By Liam Coleman

- Last updated on GMT

Hopeful for pubs' futures: Southwark Council has placed an Article 4 Direction on the planning condition
Hopeful for pubs' futures: Southwark Council has placed an Article 4 Direction on the planning condition

Related tags London borough

Southwark Council has added an 'extra layer of protection' for 188 pub sites across the borough by altering a planning condition that had allowed developers to change the use of the site.

At a meeting of the London borough’s planning committee on Tuesday (7 March) members voted unanimously to withdraw the 'Permitted Developments Rights', ​which according to the council, “threatened local pubs by allowing any change of use, demolition or alteration of public houses across the borough”.

Permitted Development Rights cover certain types of building work that do not need planning permission to be applied for.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), however, has opposed what it calls the “blanket approach” taken by Southwark, claiming “every case should be judged on its own merits”.

Southwark councillors agreed to the proposal to place an 'Article 4 direction' on the condition, meaning any changes to local pubs will have to go through the planning process.

This would result in the council – and local community – being able to have a say on any proposed changes.

Southwark Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and new homes Mark Williams said: "We value the role local pubs play for our residents, and we know that many of them in the borough are well used and much loved by local people.

“This is why we felt it was important to make sure that the council and local community have a say when pubs are put forward for development, to help ensure that changing the use of pubs only happens in the right circumstances and in the right areas.”

‘Not the right approach’

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has opposed past attempts to remove permitted development rights from all pubs and has voiced its opposition to the steps taken by Southwark Council.

The association’s chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, said: “We certainly want to see as many thriving pubs as possible, but this is not the right approach.

“It is right that there are laws to protect pubs that are of real value, to local people and local communities. This can be done by using existing laws to make a pub an asset of community value (ACV).

“However, as each pub’s situation is different, this should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

“We are against Southwark’s proposed blanket approach, as we believe every case should be judged on its own merits.

“The major unintended consequence of such an A4 direction is the suspension of ‘general permitted rights’ – that is any alteration to the property, such as fences, signage, or even painting the pub a different colour, would all require planning permission, with the uncertainty, delay and cost that this entails.

“The individual landlord or brewery therefore faces costs and red tape if they want to invest or improve their pub, despite having no intention to sell or demolish the site.”

CAMRA approval

Colin Valentine, national chairman of CAMRA, welcomed the borough's decision, saying: "It is encouraging that Southwark Council is taking direct action to save pubs through the implementation of an Article 4 Direction, as has been done in Wandsworth.

"CAMRA is campaigning the Government to close current planning loopholes for all pubs so that individuals and councils don't need to jump through these hoops to save a beloved local."

Southwark’s decision took immediate effect, with a six-week consultation period to follow.

The council will then decide whether to introduce the direction permanently.

Southwark is one of only a couple of London authorities to take this step with Wandsworth using the same planning regulations to protect pubs.

Following Wandsworth

Wandsworth became the first London borough to introduce A4 directions for its pubs in August 2016.

Reacting to the step taken by Southwark Council, Wandsworth Council's deputy leader Jonathan Cook told The Morning Advertiser​: “It shows that we are on to something. It will be interesting to know if any other London boroughs will follow suit.”

Related topics Property law

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