Real ale campaigners are urging Kirklees Council to block pub conversions by would-be developers – in a bid to save more pubs from closure.
A report by CAMRA and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is encouraging local authorities in England to become “the last line of defence” for pubs – which are disappearing at a rate of 28 a week – and calls for more power over planning to be transferred to councils from central government.
Clr Steve Hall, cabinet member for planning at Kirklees, said he recognised the concerns expressed in the report – and said the best protection for pubs was for local communities to rally round and support them.
CAMRA spokesman Tom Stainer said: “CAMRA is grateful to the trailblazing councils who are leading the way in pub protection but it is still too few.
“We want all councils to follow suit and we hope the ideas in this report provide a useful starting point.
“Pub closures are not as simple as a badly-run business or a changing marketplace. There are many external factors and pressures which have a bearing on pub survival.”
The report calls on councils to value the role pubs play in communities by adopting strong pub protection policies in locals plans, listing pubs as Assets of Community Value and using “Article 4 Directions” which ensure that planning permission is always required for change of use of a pub.
CAMRA wants Government to bolster local councils’ powers by reforming national planning law so that communities and councils always have a say before a pub is demolished or converted into another use.
Mr Stainer said: “Weak planning laws are a major contributing factor to pubs closing and central Government need to give councils greater powers so they can do more to protect pubs from developers.
“At the moment, ministers are letting down communities by allowing pubs to be demolished or converted to a whole range of retail uses without any planning permission being required.”
A survey by CAMRA last year showed that 45 out of 49 councils taking part considered pubs as valued community amenities worthy of protection.
Despite this, 33 out of 49 councils felt that existing planning regulations failed to give sufficient protection to pubs from change of use or demolition.
Clr Hall said: “Speaking personally, I would like pubs to remain as pubs. It is unfortunate that pubs are shutting because they are a vital part of our communities.”
He likened concerns over pub closures to worries being voiced about the number of vacant retail units being turned into betting shops – particularly in poorer areas.
Clr Hall said planning applications for change of use of pubs were considered on their individual merits.
And while some pubs had been demolished to make way for convenience stores run by major supermarket chains, others had been saved by community action.
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