The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has this week launched a campaign urging the UK Government to close a legal loophole allowing pubs to be demolished or converted into supermarkets without planning permission.
The campaign, called Pubs Matter, comes as new figures reveal that 31 pub close every week in the UK.
Currently developers are able to convert pubs to other uses without planning permission, a legal loophole which CAMRA says has contributed to the loss of thousands of UK pubs.
In total, 3% of the the UK’s suburban pubs have been lost in the past six months alone, says the organisation.
Pubs Matter is calling on the 55,000-plus visitors to this week’s Great British Beer Festival to lobby their MP to urge the Government to change the law in England so a planning application is always required before a pub is demolished or converted into another use.
Stephen Langdon is part of a group of locals trying to save the Maiden Over pub in Reading, which developers are threatening to convert into a Tesco supermarket.
He said: “We found out just a couple of weeks ago that our valued local pub is shutting. My first thought on learning that Tesco were involved was that they would struggle to get planning permission for change of use – I was stunned when I learned that there was no requirement for this at all.
“The reality is that our local pub, a genuine community venue and the only public meeting place within a large residential area, is very likely to disappear, and the local community has had scarcely any opportunity to voice an opinion on the matter.”
CAMRA is encouraging visitors to the Great British Beer festival to make use of specially designed postcards to lobby their MP, which can be posted into boxes around the venue to be sent to the relevant MPs by CAMRA.
Tom Stainer, CAMRA head of communications, said: “Popular and profitable pubs are being left vulnerable by gaps in English planning legislation as pubs are increasingly being targeted by those wishing to take advantage of the absence of proper planning control. It is utterly perverse that developers are able to demolish or convert a pub into a convenience store or many other uses without any requirement to apply for planning permission. A pub is an entirely different proposition to a convenience store, estate agent or funeral directors and the planning system needs updating to reflect this fact. It is wrong that communities are left powerless when a popular local pub is threatened with demolition or conversion into a Tesco store.”