Council meetings

Agenda item

Pubs review update


Resolved - that the Committee would receive a report with the evidence gathered before making recommendations to Mayor and Cabinet.


4.1    Councillor Curran invited guests to present their views about the protection of pubs in Lewisham (written responses to a call for evidence for this session are appended to the agenda).


4.2    Stephen Kenny (Chair of the Baring Hall Trust/Grove Park Neighbourhood Forum) addressed the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         At the time of the Committee’s previous ‘preserving local pubs review’ The Baring Hall Hotel (a Lewisham pub) was locally listed and included on the Council’s register of assets of community value.

·         Despite the protections that were in place a developer had submitted proposals for housing on part of the pub site. The application was turned down (and appeal was rejected by the inspectorate).

·         The pub had subsequently been nationally listed – but the threat to the viability of the business from inappropriate short term housing development remained.

·         A reduction in business rates for publicans would be welcomed.

·         Careful consideration should be given to the rules around residential accommodation above pubs.

·         Development should not be permitted in the grounds surrounding pubs.

·         The Baring Hall Hotel had been under threat of demolition but its subsequent listing demonstrated how vulnerable pubs were to development.


4.3    Stephen Kenny responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         It was agreed that any reduction in business rates would need to be matched by provision of space in pub buildings that was available for the community.

·         The principal consideration for the use of a pub building should be the viability of the pub business.

·         Previous plans for development of the Baring Hall Hotel did not take all the relevant information into consideration. Often developers wanted to make the case for development – rather than ensure the sustainability of pub businesses.


4.4    Gary Mallen (Publican) addressed the Committee, the following key point was noted:

·         He was the operator of ten pubs in London (including one in Lewisham)


4.5    Gary Mallen responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         He took over the operation of the Lord Northbrook Pub in Lewisham, which had been poorly run.

·         He had been determined to ensure that the pub provided a quality service for the local community, which made it a success.

·         One of the obstacles to renovating the pub was the level of requirement from building control for the residential space above the pub – which had to meet a level of standards designed for independent property, rather than that which was integral to the running of the business.

·         Significant levels of work were required for some pubs to ensure that they met regulations.

·         Accommodation for pub businesses was important for retaining staff because of the high cost of housing in London.

·         Attracting good people was key to the success of running a good pub business.

·         New pub developments didn’t always include space for kitchens/serving food/or other facilities (especially those below new accommodation) – which meant they were more likely to fail.

·         Plans that were submitted for new pubs that were part of developments/redevelopments often only included information about the quantity of space to be provided- without details – which meant that once necessary facilities had been included in the new development, there was very little space left for anything but a bar.

·         Applications should show an indicative layout of the space that would be provided in a new pub development. However, there was no set formula for the amount of space that should be provided to run a viable pub business.


4.6    Mark Dodds (Fair Pint Campaign) addresses the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         He was a former publican in South London and the founder of the Fair Pint Campaign.

·         The campaign was started to challenge the ‘beer tie’ imposed on publicans by large pub operating companies (the tie forced publicans to buy their beer and other goods from the company).

·         He was involved in research and advocacy to support pubs because pubs were highly vulnerable to change of use/development.


4.7    Mark Dodds responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         The beer tie was a legal agreement between a pub company and a pub operator that – in addition to the leasing agreement for a pub – obliged the operator to buy their beer (and other suppliers) from the pub company.

·         The downside of the arrangement was that a single company had control of the rent of the pub and of the supply (and range) of goods that could be sold in a ‘tied’ pub.

·         Charges from pub companies for supplying beer were often high.

·         Planning applications that were submitted by developers for changes to pubs’ businesses were often designed to diminish the pub business and maximise profits.

·         There were many reasons that a pub might fall into decline, which were not usually to do with the viability of the business – but due rather to a desire on the part of a developer to make money.

·         He believed that the narrative around pubs – and the reasons for the overall decline pub numbers - in the UK was led by industry bodies and landlords, whose primary interest was profit making.

·         Pubs were part of the UK culture and integral to local communities.

·         Pubs that were run well provided spaces for communities from christenings to funerals.

·         Pubs were typically catering/food businesses, this had been replaced by a focus on drinking.


4.8    Neil Pettigrew (Pub Protection Officer, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)) addressed the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         It was recognised that Lewisham had a strong pubs protection policy – but CAMRA wanted to see it strengthened.

·         Pubs were still an easy target for developers - who were interested in making short-term profits.

·         CAMRA wanted the Council to have a clear policy that pubs would not get permission for demolition for change of use.

·         When pubs were being marketed following closure – there should be a fair assessment of the cost of buying the business as a going concern.


4.9    Neil Pettigrew responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         Pub businesses were experiencing significant strain as a result of a number of factors however, principal amongst them was the desire on the part of owners to make profit.

·         The number of pubs in London had declined significantly – allowing for a great deal of development. The number of pub businesses was sustainable, as long as they were supported and protected from development for short term gain.

·         A register of community facilities within pubs might help to support local businesses.

·         Every pub would be worth more to developers as flats rather than as a pub business. A pure reliance on ‘market forces’ would result in the loss of all pubs.

·         There had been a number of cases when new housing near to a well-established pub forced the pub to reduce its opening hours, which ultimately affected the viability of the business. The emphasis on the ‘agent of change’ principle (a proposal in the draft London Plan, designed to put the impetus for mitigating noise from pubs on developers of new housing) for new developments would be welcomed.


4.10  David Syme (Strategic Planning Manager) addressed the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         Three important changes had come into place since the introduction of the Council’s policy on protecting pubs. Firstly, the government had withdrawn permitted development rights for the change of use of pub businesses to cafes or shops. Secondly, the ‘agent of change’ principle in the draft London plan would be incorporated into Lewisham’s plan. Finally, also in the draft London Plan, there was policy for protecting public houses and the Mayor of London had set out his support for pubs. The policy protected pubs against the loss of facilities that supported the business.


4.11  In the Committee discussion, the following key points were also noted:

·           Any reduction in business rates would have to be matched by a demonstrable use of facilities in a pub for the community.

·           There were some good examples of European countries which had bars/pubs that provided spaces for communities and families, including children.

·           The Council should support the protection of ancillary spaces around pubs (including car parks and gardens) to support business.

·           The pressure on space for housing (and other uses) was severe.

·           It was proposed that planning applications should consider minimum quantifiable ancillary spaces for the running of pub businesses – for example: kitchen; storage space; accommodation for key workers; office space for management.

·           Even with the existing protections in place, developers could still find ways to change pubs to other uses.


4.12  Resolved - that the Committee would receive a report with the evidence gathered before making recommendations to Mayor and Cabinet.


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