Calling Time On The Supermarket Conversion

CAMRA has called on the government to close loopholes in the planning laws that allow the likes of Tesco to convert pubs into supermarkets without undergoing the usual local scrutiny. Research by CAMRA members has shown that, since 2010, over 200 pubs have undergone conversion; the majority (130) by Tesco: well, every little helps.

The appeal of pub-to-supermarket conversions is simple. A public house is, for planning purposes, already considered a retail unit. So if Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc want to open on the site, they can do so without undergoing the usual change of use process. This of course sidesteps the local authority and has the added bonus, if the premises are less than 280 sq metres, of bypassing the Sunday Trading Act.

This circumventing of local consultation has been highlighted before, but CAMRA believe it’s more imperative than ever that this anomaly is corrected. And they’re not alone. Greg Mulholland MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Save The Pub Group, has written to all the major supermarkets asking that they cease to target pubs.

No one can pretend that this measure is some sort of panacea for the pub trade’s ills, but it seems only fair to correct legislation that makes it easier to convert a pub into a supermarket than a restaurant into a pub.

However, I fear that the appeal will fall on deaf ears. We have a prohibitionist government who are intent on less planning regulation, not more, and who are lukewarm towards pubs at best. So I won’t hold my breath.  


Cooking Lager said…
And all because bearded odd balls prefer a high street of boarded up pubs to thriving busy convenience stores.
Tyson said…
You almost make it sound like a bad thing.
Cooking Lager said…
More a useless and futile thing.

No amount of making it more difficult to change the use of a building from unsuccessful pub to successful convenience store changes the basic economics.
Penny said…
A rather simplistic answer, CL, I have to say. But it's more than just about saving a pub, isn't it? Why should the supermarkets have a special privilege?

The purpose of planning legislation should be to treat every application the same. And, as the local populace will be stuck with the result of any decision, they should have a say in it.
Cooking Lager said…
Supermarkets have no special privilege. Any retail option would be treated the same.

The local populace have shown they don't want a pub by not going in it. Maybe they will show they hate tesco by queuing up in it from dawn till dusk.

Just as Call me Dave is promising to remove red tape, get the economy moving a group of beards want more red tape to slow down the conversion of buildings from a declining and dying sector to one generating jobs, profits and taxes.

Because we all want boarded up buildings and hate convenience stores.
RedNev said…
What happened, CL? What began as mickey-taking jokes about real ale drinkers are now just plain offensive. That suggests to me that you are increasingly frustrated that what seems obvious to you is not being accepted by others. Can you not accept a difference of opinion without insulting those who disagree with you?

While some closed-down pubs have been converted to supermarkets, it is not beyond the imagination of anyone who has some inkling of how monopolistic capitalism works to envisage a situation where a massive, international supermarket chain offers to buy a perfectly viable pub from a debt-ridden pubco for a price well in excess of the actual market price. That's what they do, and not just in the pub industry. The lesson is that the free market ideal that you champion is distinctly at odds with the reality of the massive financial power of mega-companies.

Penny's second paragraph is spot on too, especially if you believe in local democracy.

No one wants boarded up pubs at all. That's your jaundiced interpretation.
Cooking Lager said…
I've read through what I wrote.

It was offensive possibly to bearded odd balls but not as far as I am aware Tyson or Penny.

A viable pub isn't an empty pub ticking along that hasn't yet gone bust. If a supermarket pays more for the pub than somebody wanting a pub, the market price is what the supermarket pay. That's not in excess of, that's the market price.

A viable pub is one that makes a commercial return on capital employed, not tick along.
Tyson said…

Cookie worships at the altar of capitalism. He can’t help it, bless him.


Ah, cutting red tape. I must have missed that lesson in school when that was presented as the solution to our economic woes. Personally I’ve found that deregulation and cutting of this-and-that has only ever made me worse off in every field from transport to banking. Any benefits, from wages to education, have come from state intervention. But that might just be me.

Now I know that that you are too clever to fully believe the simplistic drivel that you’ve espoused. The local populace have shown no such thing for a start. But let’s pretend and use your perfect supply and demand free market scenario. All we can conclude is that they don’t want that particular pub. Maybe they want my pub. But they don’t get a choice, do they?

Why should retail be given a special advantage? Because it generates jobs, profits and taxes. But then why can’t I convert my restaurant to a pub? Or, as happened in my manor, why can’t someone setup a (non-retail) business in a former pub and generate local jobs and taxes. Or is ok only if Tesco does it?

No, my friend, you have this the wrong way round. As a free marketer, you should be supporting this measure. Because then, and only then, will the market be a truly free one.

Of course, this doesn’t address the local democracy issue, but then raw capitalism isn’t interested in such abstract concepts.
Cooking Lager said…
If the public decide they do not want a particular pub and you think they might want your pub, you can make an offer for the place. The market price is anything above what Tesco will pay. Good luck. Viability is making a return on the capital. A market values the capital through its price. Its price is based on its utilisation in anything somebody can think of doing with it, not restricting it to one use, a pub.

Tesco has no special advantage. A coffee shop, café, newsagent would enjoy the same lack of asking the locals permission to do that. Plenty of pubs become offices, I know a few that now house solicitors offices. The locals were not asked permission, nor did anyone miss the pubs that closed.

As for going the other way and setting up a pub, well pubs have a track record for being a bit more of a nuisance to locals. Late night noise & drunks throwing chip papers in gardens, pissing in the street and the odd fight.

This is not giving an advantage to some, it is placing a restriction on those that create nuisance

It is a pity the leftie beard club are more interested in planning regulation than the core reason of the decline of pubs, one people not going in the numbers they used to.

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