Pub protection planning laws: Cambridge set to launch consultation

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Local government

The Carpenters Arms in Cambridge closed in the summer last year and is one of a number of recent pub closures that has led the council to consider a consultation on planning laws to protect local pubs
The Carpenters Arms in Cambridge closed in the summer last year and is one of a number of recent pub closures that has led the council to consider a consultation on planning laws to protect local pubs
Cambridge City Council is set to become the latest local authority to consult on introducing planning laws to protect local pubs and save them from becoming victim to changes of use after a report on pub closures in the city is discussed by councillors next week.

As part of the council's on-going review into local planning laws, GVA Humberts Leisure was appointed in February to produce a report to give councillors advice on current and future policies in relation to pubs.

The report suggests there are now fewer pubs per person in the East of England than any other part of the UK outside London and a relative 'undersupply' of pubs in Cambridge compared to similar cities.

The report will be presented to councillors on Tuesday 12 June alongside a policy guidance document. The document calls for any development to existing pubs to only be given permission if the venue has been marketed as a free of tie pub for a year or longer with no interest shown in taking it up or converting it to another 'A' use venue such as a restaurant.

If approved by councillors on Tuesday, the planning document will go to public consultation almost immediately until 27 July.


Paul Ainsworth, Cambridge Camra pubs officer, told BigHospitality he believed the council were prepared to back the plans to protect pubs in the city from closure as the problem had got worse in recent years with many pubs bought to be developed into housing. "In the last five years we have lost 23 pubs which represents 24 per cent of the pub stock so it is quite a rate of attrition," he said.

Ainsworth also revealed the council was already trying to stem the tide of conversions of pubs or the land they sit on by using the rules afforded to them by the new National Planning Policy Framework​.

The framework calls for councils to make planning decisions that support development which promotes local services including pubs. 

Community pubs

“Public houses, especially those that support local community activities, are vital for supporting vibrant neighbourhoods,” Councillor Tim Ward, the portfolio holder for Planning and Sustainable Transport on Cambridge City Council said at the time of commissioning the report into pub closures. “It’s not just a case of where people can go for a drink. Their closure will deprive both local people and visitors of an important meeting place that hosts local activities,” he added.

The council is not the first to consider changes to local planning laws to protect pubs. Kensington and Chelsea borough launched a similar consultation earlier this year​ which included looking at the use of 'Article 4' directions which councils can issue to prevent developments in areas where they feel changes would be detrimental. These can lead to local authorities having to pay compensation.

Ainsworth explained that if the consultation did begin he would be arguing the case for the use of 'Article 4' directions to also be considered in Cambridge.

"Residents are losing easy access to their pubs. They have to walk further and further to find a pub that is still open. We are utterly convinced that most of these pubs, if properly run, are entirely viable. Often they have been, if not deliberately run down, not particularly well managed. People should at least be given the chance to buy them or run them as pubs which they are being denied at the moment," he concluded.

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