Pubs have had a torrid time and the lifting of lockdown means many now face uncertain times as CAMRA is predicting a tsunami of planning applications from developers, writes Paul Ainsworth.

Although the pub world is now edging back to normality, the past few months have been traumatic for pub businesses. Most will, we hope, soon recover but, sadly, casualties are highly likely. Many pubs occupy attractive buildings or plots in desirable locations so short-term difficulties will inevitably see predatory developers circling and change of use applications hitting planners’ desks.

Fortunately, our planning system has become more robust when it comes to protecting pubs (in England at least – the other three countries are a little way behind – what follows is England-specific). Any proposals to change the use of, or demolish, a pub require planning permission and decisions on applications should be made in line with national and local planning policies. The former, in the shape of the National Planning Policy Framework, instructs planners to guard against the unnecessary loss of valued community facilities like pubs. Many Councils now have local policies which build on and strengthen these requirements. Objectors to planning applications that threaten pubs should therefore find themselves in a pretty strong position if they can present a good case.

We’ve produced a detailed guide – Saving Your Local Pub – to assist campaigners and there is a good deal of other information about pubs and planning on our website. If signs appear that your local, or any other treasured pub, is under threat, the first priority is intelligence gathering – what do the pub’s owners have in mind and what are they likely to do about it? A close watch will need to be kept on planning applications – Councils publish weekly lists on their websites. Once a threat becomes real, gathering community support will be vital. Unless you can produce compelling evidence that the pub benefits the community and is highly valued by local people, the relevant planning policies probably won’t be satisfied. Saving Your Local Pub has advice on how to go about this and on the next stages, particularly the crucial task of writing and submitting objections.

It’s also well worth applying to have the pub listed as an Asset Of Community Value (again, England only). The key objective of this scheme is to enable communities to bid for a pub if it’s put up for sale but ACV status also demonstrates that the pub is important to local people and this will help in any planning battle. Guidance on ACV nominations can be found at www.camra.org.uk/resource_type/acvs/

An increasing number of communities have taken the bold step of purchasing their local pub so that they can directly control its future. At the last count, 146 pubs were either owned or, in a few cases, run by the community. To date, not one of these businesses has failed, all the more remarkable given that many of the pubs had been written off as terminally unviable by their previous owners. Again, we have guidance – www.camra.org.uk/campaign_resources/community-owned-pubs-a-camra-guide

If you need help with a pub-saving campaign, and you’re not an active member, your local Branch should be your first port of call – they will be keen to assist. I’m also always available to advise campaigners, especially around matters connected with planning processes and law.

I hope your local is soon in rude health and that your supplies of lovely real ale are guaranteed. However, if unwanted developments are looming, please be assured that help is at hand.

Pub campaigners have much to learn from the successful 1,000 day battle to save the Chesham Arms in Hackney, East London (pictured).

Saving the pub involved a two year legal battle, its listing as an asset of community value, which was followed by Hackney Council In March placing an Article 4 direction, which thwarted the owner’s efforts to change the commercial use of the property.

Paul Ainsworth writes on behalf of the of Pub Campaigns Committee

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