Pub planning laws to change to preserve historic buildings

Campaigners have recently advised the demolition of a pub in Hertfordshire should act as a ‘catalyst for change’. 

The Crooked House pub, which was situated in Staffordshire, was burned in a fire nine days after being sold by the brewer Martson’s. Two days after the fire, the pub, which was well-known for its wonky design and was built in the 18th century, was demolished by its new owners, amid a police investigation into the cause of the blaze.

round wooden cafeteria tables and chairs inside room

It was one of 61 pubs the company put on the market earlier in 2023, while the Stonegate Group, the largest pub company in the UK, has put 1,000 venues up for sale in recent months.

Greg Mulholland, director of Campaign for Pubs, said: ‘The reality is that up and down the country, communities are seeing pubs converted and demolished when the pub was perfectly viable in many cases.

‘The government will say it’s down to local councils and communities to act, which is a complete cop-out.

‘It’s very easy for politicians to say how important the pub is and to pose behind the bar with a pint. But actually, we have a very laissez-faire system when it comes to pubs. We are losing part of our history and our heritage, and that’s not just recognised in the planning system at the moment.’

Echoing Greg’s tone, in 2017 planning law was changed so pubs in England could not be converted or demolished without planning permission. However, research by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), found that of the 96 pubs that had been converted or demolished across the UK in the first six months of the year, 31 of those lacked planning permission.

Tom Stainer, chief executive of Camra, said: ‘The Crooked House is the latest in a line of pubs you hear about that have been knocked down or converted without any reference to the local community or without seeking proper permissions.

‘Some developers know they might get fined, but at the end of the day, they’re going to end up doing what they want to do, which is to knock down a pub and rebuild it as something else and make a lot of money that way.’

Tom has cited examples of the Carlton Tavern in north London and the Punch Bowl Inn in Lancashire, as successful cases in which councils have ordered pubs to be re-built following demolition.

Tom added: ‘But clearly the system isn’t working – these properties need protection, there needs to be proper enforcement, there needs to be serious penalties for people who it seems in many cases deliberately ride roughshod through planning legislation.’

In response to this, a government spokesperson has said: ‘We recognise the pressure pubs are under from global factors pushing up the price of energy and other costs, and their importance for communities across the country.

‘That’s why we supported all hospitality businesses – including pubs – with an unprecedented package of support for energy bills last winter. This is in addition to the billion in grants and loans offered throughout the pandemic.’


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