Pub conversions could be subject to new Planning controls
14th May 2014
The increasing trend for pubs to be converted into convenience stores is potentially under threat should new legislation be introduced.
Why are pubs being converted so often?
The conversion of pubs into convenience stores has become a popular option in recent years.
Pub companies are facing greater challenges in neighbourhood areas, away from city centres and many are looking to offload their less profitable bars.
The convenience sector continues to seek expansion, especially in neighbourhood areas close to people’s homes where the economic returns can far exceed those generated by a local pub.
This conversion process is further aided by the fact that no planning permission is currently required to convert a pub into a convenience store.
Why is this now under threat?
A new source of potential opposition to pub-to-shop conversions has emerged; a call for legislation to close the loopholes which allow pubs and local facilities to be converted into retail facilities without the need for planning permission.
What is the potential legislation?
This idea comes from a Liberal Democrat member of the Leeds, North West Assembly, Greg Mulholland, the chair of Save the Pub Group.
Mr Mulholland is calling for legislation to be introduced to make pub-to-shop conversions require planning permission.
He also wants the community to given the right to buy local pubs and the opportunity for consultation so councils do not unreasonably deny communities the right to list local assets.
What could happen if the owner wants to sell the pub for a shop conversion?
The owner would not be able to change the use or obtain permission to demolish, without the pub being offered at a fair market price and properly advertised for sale for at least six months.
The community would also be given the right to buy the freehold if the owner puts the premises up for sale at independently assessed market value.
If the local community does decide to pursue the purchase this can result in potential disruption for pub owners.
The community will be given the right to delay the sale of the assets to allow sufficient time to raise the relevant funds to buy the property.
Even if the sale for conversion was successful then full planning permission would then need to be applied for to enable a conversion.
What happens next?
This area of proposed legislation is still very new and yet to be given Royal Assent. The proposed Bill will next be before Parliament on 6 June 2014 when it will be printed. However, it is something that both pub owners and convenience stores may well need to consider in the very near future.
Where can I get further information?
For more information about the issues raised in this update, 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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