Steve O’Connell, London Assembly Member, is today launching a report ‘Keeping Local: How to save London’s pubs as community resources’. In it, he calls for London’s borough councils to adopt stringent criteria when considering the redevelopment or demolition of pubs, and a limit to the number of high street shops selling alcohol.
London has seen over 400 former pubs demolished between 2003-2012 – the South East has fared consistently badly with a net annual loss of more than 30 pubs on three occasions during this period. Lewisham has lost 36% of its pubs in the last decade.
“Good pubs are vital, vibrant centres for their communities. The social impact of the community minded pub impacts beyond its walls. It is a place where people can congregate safely as part of a community and can help rid our streets of anti-social drinking in public places, drunken violence and intimidation. As well as fostering a sense of community, the pub industry creates tens of thousands of local jobs and acts as ‘anchors’ drawing other businesses into the area.
“Unfortunately, a high number of these pubs are demolished or converted to other uses such as residential, retail, and professional services which radically alter community spaces and change the tone of the high street. Borough councils and pub managers should work together to make sure these community hubs continue to serve their local areas.”
The report calls for all borough councils to apply stringent criteria and ask specific questions when considering change of use or redevelopment including;
• Have all reasonable efforts been made to preserve the facility?
• Will the proposed alternative use affect the character of the neighbourhood?
• Has it been demonstrated that the local community no longer needs the pub?
• Are significant historical or cultural features threatened?
In consultation with local residents and businesses, borough councils are also being urged to implement a saturation zone licensing policy to limit the number of high street shops selling alcohol.
“With a shift of emphasis away from cheap off-license alcohol, these saturation zones could help cut binge drinking and create more of a level playing field for pubs encouraging social drinking in their local communities.”