The licensed trade has called on local authorities around the UK to follow the lead of London’s mayor by introducing planning guidance to protect bars, clubs and pubs from closure.
In response to calls from the late-night sector, London mayor Sadiq Khan is introducing the “Agent of Change” principle in his draft London Plan – his overall planning strategy for the capital.
This means that developers building new residential properties near bars, pubs and clubs will be responsible for ensuring they are adequately soundproofed and designed to reduce sound from the venues instead of the crippling cost falling on the operators.
Local authorities will have to refuse proposals from developers that have not clearly demonstrated how they will manage this noise impact.
The mayor will lay down plans urging boroughs to resist applications to redevelop areas directly connected to pubs – such as beer gardens, function rooms or landlord accommodation – so that they retain their appeal to local people and visitors and remain viable businesses.
The draft London Plan also pushes for local authorities to recognise the heritage, economic, social and cultural value of pubs and ensure they are protected for local communities. It will also ask boroughs to back proposals for new pubs to be built in appropriate locations to stimulate town centre regeneration.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), said: “We fully welcome the mayor’s new guidance on planning which will see the Agent of Change principle written into the London Plan.
“The ALMR has been long campaigned for this additional protection, which will go a long way to slowing the large number of pub and late-night venue closures we have seen in the capital in recent years.
“We now want to see councils in other cities across the UK adopt this sensible approach, extending this protection nationwide and enabling the night-time economy to thrive.”
The major appointed London’s first-ever “night czar”, Amy Lamé, to champion the capital’s night-time economy and to take action to protect bars, pubs, nightclubs, grassroots music venues and LGBT+ spaces in the city.
Earlier this month, Amy published guidance for councils on how they can use the current London Plan to safeguard late-night venues, including guidance on Agent of Change.
She said: “I fell in love with London’s pub culture when I moved to the capital over 20 years ago. Having campaigned for years to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, I understand the pivotal role pubs play in community life and how passionately Londoners feel about their local.
“I’m delighted that the mayor has unveiled these important policies in his draft London Plan today. This, alongside his commitment to an annual audit of public houses in the capital, will be invaluable in our fight to protect pubs across the city.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), added: “I welcome the fact that the draft plan recognises the great contribution that pubs make to the economy and social life of London.
“In particular, the agent-of-change proposal is one that we have long argued for and would ensure that pubs are not threatened by new housing developments through complaints about noise from pubs which have been trading for hundreds of years.
“We will certainly be responding to the consultation as there are also some aspects that will need careful consideration, including a proposal around the need to market a pub for a specific period of time before any change of use and how this might work in practice.”
Updated November 29, 2017, with BBPA comment.