Councillor Liam Curran, chair of the south London borough’s sustainable development committee, told The Morning Advertiser that the committee asked its officers to look at its existing policies on pub planning laws and make recommendations for updating them at its 20 April meeting.
Curran added that the borough’s planning officers would see if following the lead of fellow south London boroughs Southwark and Wandsworth in introducing an Article 4 (A4) direction for pubs in the borough would be a feasible option.
If adopted, the A4 direction would remove permitted development rights – described as a "planning loophole" – from Lewisham pubs. This would mean that any changes to local pubs would have to go through the planning process.
This comes weeks after the House of Commons backed an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which would also remove permitted development rights from pubs.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan last week pledged to halt the “shocking” decline in the number of pubs in the capital after figures showed that more than 1,000 London boozers had been lost in the past 15 years.
Khan said that his office would work closely with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to “stem the flow of closures in the city”.
CAMRA national chairman Colin Valentine has since billed Lewisham’s plans to review its planning laws as “great news”.
“Pubs play a huge role in local communities across the country, as is evidenced by the number of campaigners who fight tooth and nail to save their local. This move will take a huge amount of pressure off local campaigners and embed a strong pro-pub policy in the local area,” Valentine added.
An alternative focus urged
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), meanwhile, has urged Lewisham Council to not introduce an A4 direction, saying that they can “impose costs on the pubs they are trying to protect, and can lead to unintended consequences that could impact on pub development and investment”.
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds has called for the debate around pub closures to instead focus on lower taxes on beer, a supportive licensing regime and business rates reform.
Simmonds had backed the Government amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, saying that it “addressed concerns” that the association had with A4 directions.
The amendment would keep pubs in the same use class for planning. Additionally, the right to extend restaurant use of a pub would not require planning permission.