Members of the party passed the policy motion A Better More Sustainable future for British pubs at the conference in York on Saturday.
In a bid to stop pub closures, the party said it would change the planning system so that no change of use or permission to demolish will be granted until a pub has been properly advertised at a fair market price for at least six month.
It pledged to give existing tenants the right to buy the freehold for their pub at an 'independently assessed' market price if the owner decides to put it up for sale. Communities would also be given the opportunity to buy local pubs and save them from closure.
The party said it would also support pub company reform, including proposals to enshrine in law the principle that tied licensees should not be worse off than untied licensees.
Serious about pubs
Greg Mulholland MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, said that the Liberal Democrats were ‘serious about standing up for the Great British pub’.
“I am delighted that the Liberal Democrats have now adopted as policy the need to give a fair deal to pubco licensees through a market rent only option, backing the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign,” he said.
“The unregulated leased pubco model has been a disaster for the valued national institution and community facility that is the pub and one that Liberal Democrats in Government must now deal with, in the same way that disgraceful behaviour in the banking sector has been dealt with.
“This vote today should give Vince Cable additional confidence to introduce this in the forthcoming statutory code of practice for the pubcos and would represent a huge positive move in terms of stopping exploitation and saving many valued pubs.”
He added that the policies around planning law would give pubs the protection they needed against “the unethical collusion between indebted pubcos and supermarkets”
According to the latest CGA-Camra Pub Tracker, the number of pub closures in the UK rose from 26 to 28 every week in the period of April-December 2013.
CAMRA said pubs were closing ‘unnecessarily’ because tied licensees were struggling to make their businesses succeed thanks to increased rents and inflated beer prices
Previous research by CAMRA revealed that big supermarket chains appear to be targeting pubs for conversion because a legal loophole allows a pub to be converted to other uses without planning permission.
The British Beer and Pub Assocation (BBPA) has also raised concerns over beer duty inflation and other tax regulations applied to pubs.
Data in its latest publication ‘The Pub Story’ revealed that beer and other alcohol duties land pubs with average costs of £33,000, while business rates are £12,500 per premises and average VAT is £66,000.