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Southwark raises the bar to protect pubs from change of use

London SE1 website team

Southwark's planning committee has used its powers to restrict developers from turning pubs into shops or offices without first seeking full planning permission.

Currently, a pub can be demolished or converted into a number of other uses without a developer needing to submit a planning application.

Notably, The Elephant & Castle pub nearly became a branch of Foxtons estate agents because of these permitted development rights (PDR). In that case the pub was registered as an Asset of Community Value which removed the PDR.

At Tuesday night's planning committee councillors heard that Southwark has lots a third of its pubs in the past decade, with 164 traditional pubs currently trading in the borough.

The committee unanimously backed the move to impose an article 4 direction which means that developers will need to submit a planning application before turning a pub into an estate agent's office or shop.

The planning committee's decision takes immediate effect, with a six-week consultation period now being held before a decision is made as to whether to make the measure permanent.

Cllr Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: "We value the role local pubs play for our residents, and we know that many of them in the borough are well used and much loved by local people. As well as supporting local businesses and jobs our pubs play a vital role in the heart of the communities they serve.

"This is why we felt it was important to make sure that the council and local community have a say when pubs are put forward for development, to help ensure that changing the use of pubs only happens in the right circumstances and in the right areas."

Last week the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which would remove permitted development rights from pubs on a national basis.

The amendment was tabled by Labour peer – and former Southwark councillor – Lord Kennedy of Southwark.

Lord Kennedy said: "It is vital that we take the steps needed to protect our pubs so that they continue to be the heart and soul of communities.

"I look forward to continuing to work with CAMRA to ensure that this is a reality."

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