The major supermarket chains including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Co-operative are being accused of specifically targeting pubs for redevelopment, with 208 pubs converted to supermarkets since January 2012.
“The big supermarket chains appear to be targeting pubs for conversion, despite the fact that these pubs are often profitable and popular,” said Camra’s chief executive Mike Benner. “This behaviour shows a remarkable disregard for the wellbeing of communities that face losing their valued pubs – leaving local people powerless to step in.”
A key reason for pubs being targeted by supermarket chains is a ‘loophole’ in planning laws, which allows a pub to be converted to other uses, including a supermarket store, without planning permission. The pub industry is urging the Government to step in and close this loophole, so local communities would have a say before their pubs are lost.
“Allowing pubs to be converted to supermarkets without planning permission is ludicrous, and something which the Government need to address as a matter of urgency,” added Benner.
Brigid Simmonds, the chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), added: “We want to see as many thriving, well-used local pubs as possible, but planning policies that are too restrictive can be detrimental to the pub trade as a whole.
“We should not lose sight of the key issues facing pubs, which are the big rises in tax and regulation in recent years. Until last year, we saw a 42 per cent rise in beer duty under the duty escalator. That’s why we were so pleased the Government cut beer duty last year, for the first time since the 1950s. Along with Camra, we are campaigning for a freeze in beer tax this year.
“We do agree with Camra, that the recent provisions in the Localism Act give local authorities the right to put a pub on a risk register and grants a ‘community right to bid’ to buy that pub. This provides local safeguards if there is a local demand to keep a particular premises open.”
The research also shows that Tesco are by far the most prolific pub converters, with 110 in the last two years – that’s over three times more conversions than any other supermarket chain. Sainsbury’s are a distant second with 29 pub conversions and even The Co-operative, who are part of a movement which backs community pub ownership, come in at third with 23.
Until the planning loopholes are closed CAMRA is encouraging communities to show their support for their local by nominating them as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ (ACV), which can in some instances help prevent the closure of valued community pubs.
“ACV status means that should the pub be put up for sale the surrounding community can delay the sale, giving them breathing space to look at how the pub can be saved," added Benner.
"Over 300 pubs have now been listed as Assets of Community Value, but much more needs to be done to protect pubs. At the very least the Government must act to ensure pubs that are listed as assets of community value can't be turned into a supermarkets overnight.
"It is outrageous that even valued pubs listed as ACVs are given virtually no protection from the clutches of the ever-expanding supermarket chains."