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MPs call for high street pubs to be protected

A cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to ensure high street pubs are safeguarded from alternative development under new rules due to come into force.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs, who work to promote the interest of pubs, landlords and local communities, has asked the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee to look into the implications of new proposals for high street rental auctions.

Under the new plans in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, currently working its way through parliament, councils in England would be able to auction off leases for vacant buildings, including pubs, in a strategy designed to help regenerate high streets. But the leases would allow pubs to be converted into shops and offices, or divided into multiple units.

Critically, it would allow developers the opportunity to strip the pubs of their bars, cellars and other important fixtures and fittings without the usual planning process.

Alongside the MPs, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which provides secretariat services to the parliamentary group, has also taken action with their national chairman writing to Levelling Up minister Dehenna Davison, as well as calling on its 150,000 members to write to their MPs to ensure pubs remained protected.

The news follows CAMRA’s long-running campaign to protect pubs under the Asset of Community Value rules, which allow local communities the opportunity to purchase pubs in their communities, bought in by the-then pubs minister Kris Hopkins in 2015. Pubs that achieve ACV status are given planning protection with developers prevented from converting or demolishing pubs without proper consultation.

At present around 50 pubs are closing each month across the wider malaise in the hospitality sector caused by the rise in energy bills and the cost of living. As reported in db, AlixPartners and CGA’s latest hospitality market data revealed a decline of 1,611 hospitality premises over a three-month period (the fourth quarter) of 2022. This, the findings showed, is representative of how the UK hospitality sector has been forced into closure with a 1.6% contraction – equivalent to nearly 18 venue closures each day.

Commenting, Pubs APPG chair Charlotte Nichols said: “The pub is a beloved feature of so many high streets, and all recent legislation from the Government has recognised their unique status at the heart of communities.

“I believe these proposals are out of line with the kind of support that pubs should be given by policymakers, and I hope the Select Committee will take time to consider the full implications of High Street Rental Auctions.”

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