Member Article

Consultancy urges pub groups to embrace change

The role of the public house on the British landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade, with many campaigns launched to protect pubs – no matter what that cost.

Recession, the smoking ban and a move to more people drinking at home have seen the already rapid decline in the number of pubs accelerate.

While statistics earlier this year revealed that by 2030 there could be more coffee shops in the UK than pubs – unthinkable 10 years ago.

But looking back over the 12 months since planning laws were changed in a bid to protect pubs, national planning consultancy Pegasus Group says that embracing change and seeking economic viability is the way forward.

Katie Priest, a planner based in Pegasus Group’s Bristol office, says the focus needn’t necessarily be on pub closure but rather on adding value to sites, as well as finding new uses for long-vacant pubs.

“Prior to 2015, as pubs closed many were converted to other uses, commonly either convenience stores via permitted development rights or residential properties.

“But the law changed in May last year and permitted development rights were removed, meaning that planning permission was required for change of use to retail uses, or demolition.

“Today, the challenge for many pubs is to turn a non-profit making business into something that is viable. Whether that be by avoiding closure and utilising vacant land for something else like a restaurant, hotel or residential use, or securing a change of use by demonstrating that a loss-making pub is not necessarily a community asset, will be decided on a case to case basis.”

Previous restrictions on permitted development required that applicants had to establish if a pub was an Asset of Community Value (ACV) prior to implementing any change of use. Although ACV designation continues to have an impact on the sale or disposal of pubs, it does less so on planning decisions.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guards against the unnecessary loss of ‘valued facilities and services’ which includes pubs.

Katie added: “Where a change of use of a non-viable pub is sought, there has to be demonstrable evidence of loss-making, declining sales or diminishing value to the local community.”

Pegasus Group and its Bristol team are rapidly gaining a reputation for expertise in the realm of pub planning, and recently achieved permission on behalf of the Co-op for a new convenience retail store at the former Crispin Inn in Chesterfield.

The application was granted in January following the preparation of a full planning application justifying the change of use of the long-vacant pub. The approved application will allow the Co-op to operate a new convenience store from the site, providing a viable use, new employment opportunities and a service to the local community.

Katie said: “A previous application at the site for a similar scheme by a different convenience store operator was refused in 2015, and then subject to appeal. We were able to help the Co-op’s scheme overcome the refusal reasons of the previous scheme by working as a team with other disciplines, including architects, viability consultants and highways specialists.

“This scheme is testament to the fact that no size fits all, and that with the proper advice and expertise a viable community asset such as a convenience store can be recognised as a much better facility than a loss-making, out of date pub.”

Pegasus Group has more than 270 skilled and experienced staff operating from 12 offices across 11 locations throughout the UK. Their services span the entire project process from planning through to design and delivery, specialising in planning, design, environment, economics and transport.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sam Taylor .

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