Is this the death of the pub? Plans to change use of buildings

PUBS in Worthing are in danger of closing or being converted to supermarkets, payday loan companies and betting shops.

W05662H14 Dolphin Pub East Worthing

That is the view of a group set up on behalf of the Campaign for Real Ale to stop planning loopholes that means a change of use can take place without planning permission or community consultation.

It wants pubs to be listed as assets of community value so that they can be run by members of the public.

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Bruce Webster, of Heene Road, said: “The problem is that pubs are easy meat because there is a lack of planning regulations so they can be demolished or have a change of use easily.

“If a pub came up for sale then you would have a chance of bidding for it and we could negotiate with them.

“The money would come from the community, you could form a limited company or a charity.

“In both cases individuals have said they would like to take it over and run it.

“There is an option for people to have shares and then the person that owns the biggest number normally has more of a say than the others.”

An application was submitted for the Vine in High Street, Tarring, on September 30, 2013.

A letter from James Appleton, Adur and Worthing Councils’ head of planning, dated February 11 this year, said: “Unfortunately we have struggled to receive any response from either the tenant or the freehold owner of the public house and we have extended the time period to try and encourage a response. As no response has been received, the council is now proceeding to make a formal decision.”

CAMRA campaigns manager Emily Ryans said: “CAMRA is concerned that the delay in taking a decision is falling short of the legal requirements under the Localism Act and furthermore that during this delay these assets have no protection.

“Local people may also lose faith in the Community Right to Bid if councils fail to implement a proper process.

“The local CAMRA branch is keen to preserve and protect this valued pub.”

An application to turn the Dolphin in Dominion Road, Worthing, into an asset of community value was submitted on January 3 this year, more than a month before the premises was sold by Punch Taverns.

Mr Webster said that other pubs including the Bay in Thorn Road, which has recently been sold, could also be at risk.

“There are a lot of pubs under threat in a small area and the problem is they are all local pubs,” he said.

“The difficulty we are finding is that they will not sell these pubs back to the community, instead they are selling them to supermarkets.

“Our pubs nationally are under threat with 26 closing every week.”

Between January 2010 and November 2012, 207 pubs were converted to supermarkets across the country.

Mr Webster said that becoming a community asset means that a pub is not lost to the community.

He said: “Worthing is a very big town and if all these pubs keep being sold, you could have large areas where people cannot walk to a pub, they would have to go by car or by public transport.

“The result will be people staying indoors and watching television instead.

“There are all kinds of things that go on in pubs outside of drinking, for a start they are meeting places for people. We hope that the application for the Vine will be debated by full council and we need to get some kind of decision.

“If people want to save a pub, you will find them volunteering to help by running the bar or doing the marketing.

“A community will go a long way to keep a pub open and that is because there is usually a large number of people in these premises using the facilities.

“The long term aim is to list as many pubs as we can as assets of community value and close the national loopholes in planning so people cannot just come in and demolish pubs or sell them.”