The humble pub – a great British institution that can be traced back to the Roman times has fallen out of flavour with modern society as it is reported that some 20 pubs across England and Wales are closing on a weekly basis according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), serving their last orders for a final time. There are several reasons for this; changing drinking habits, the rise in cheap alcohol available for purchase in local supermarkets and its availability and the increase of multi-cultural societies across Britain whereby the consumption of alcohol is frowned upon by many. However, this week’s newsletter focuses on how the planning system is coping with loss of pubs and what this means for developers.
Up until now, pubs (planning use class A4), have benefited from permitted development rights which have allowed landlords to convert their failing businesses to other uses within the ‘A’ planning use class such as retail stores; such rights have aided the proliferation of national supermarket chains over the last decade or so. Previously, shrewd developers wanting to convert unloved pubs into housing, could convert the building into retail first under permitted development then make a planning application for the change of use from retail to residential thereby circumventing the policy objection regarding the loss of the pub use.
However, things are about to change. Last month the Neighbourhood Planning Bill passed in parliament and awaiting Royal Ascent, could mean the removal of permitted development rights for pubs to change to other uses through individual Council’s imposing an Article 4 Direction, as has already been done with the likes of London Borough of Southwark. Although since 2015 concerned residents could register a pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), the uptake has been limited. Through removing PD rights developers would need to make an application for any change of use sought.
So the question on many reader’s minds is how best to proceed with an inevitable application to convert the property from a pub to residential units? In our experience, a sound approach would be to justify the loss of the pub use through providing detailed evidence that the property was marketed to other buyers as a pub at a fair market rent for a period of at least 18 months to 2 years (depending on the Council). Following this and depending on the architectural state of the property in question, any developer is advised to seek a competent architect to either retain much of the existing pub or replace this with a very high quality scheme that can maximise the number of units without compromising the quality of the living accommodation. Naturally an experienced planning consultancy that regularly deals with this type of application (such as Drawing and Planning) and gets approval should be instructed to present this to the local Council.
The team at DAP have had years of experience dealing with pub conversions for higher value uses; we are able to liaise with commercial agents in getting the information you need to present to the council and ‘tick the boxes’ to get it through planning. We have several examples of where we have been successful in turning once functional pubs into high quality residential accommodation with minimal affordable housing or financial contributions.