Why Article 4 could call time on pub conversions
11th August 2014
The brakes may be put on the conversion of pubs into convenience stores as more local authorities use what is known as an Article 4 Direction to halt conversions.
What is happening?
As we noted in a previous update the conversion of pubs into convenience stores has become a popular option in recent years.
Pub companies are facing greater challenges in neighbourhood areas with many looking to offload their less profitable bars whilst convenience sector operators want more outlets located close to people’s homes.
The conversion process is further aided by the fact that no planning permission is currently required to convert a pub into a convenience store – unless an Article 4 Direction is in place or usual permitted development rights have been withdrawn by a condition on a planning permission which has been implemented.
What is Article 4?
An Article 4 Direction removes ‘permitted development rights’ for a property – meaning that any proposed change of use for a building has to go through a planning application.
Whilst the issuing of an Article 4 Direction doesn’t stop a pub to store conversion in its tracks, it does delay the process and means that councils get to have their say on the acceptability of any proposed change.
Who is issuing Article 4 Directions?
Article 4 Directions are currently not very widely used in this context, but their use is growing in popularity, particularly in London.
Boroughs including Lewisham and Islington have issued Article 4 Directions on local pubs after campaigns by residents to keep them open whilst last month, Wandsworth Borough Council issued an Article 4 Direction for the Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting Bec, south London, following a year-long campaign by locals.
The council also announced it would be consulting on plans for a pub protection policy across Wandsworth borough from September, which would allow it to refuse planning applications to convert pubs into shops.
What other obstacles are there to pub conversions?
In addition to Article 4 Directions, campaigners against pub to shop conversions can also apply to have pubs registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
Under the Localism Act 2011, members of a community can apply to their local council to list a property as an Asset of Community Value.
If the council agrees that the current use of the property furthers the social wellbeing or interests of the local community, it can agree to list that as an ACV. This imposes a moratorium on disposals, giving community groups the opportunity to bid for the asset, and by doing so keep or bring it back into community use.
ACVs have been agreed for a number of pubs – again, largely in the London area – but for them to be effective, they do require members of the local community to be able to purchase the property, which may be to the eventual benefit of pub companies.
What is the likely effect of these measures on future pub conversions?
While these incidents remain in the minority when it comes to pub-to-shop conversions, and many local communities are happy for such transformations to take place, pub companies and convenience store operators should take into account this growing backlash and the legislation used by campaigners when putting in place agreements to alter the use of pub buildings.
They should also be aware that further changes to the planning system are likely to be on the way with the Government issuing a Technical Consultation on proposals including making it easier for residents and businesses to produce a neighbourhood plan and extending permitted development rights.
Further details on this can be found here and the deadline for responses is September 26.
Where can I get further information?
For more information about the issues raised in this update and how it could affect your plans, please get in touch.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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