CAMRA pub closure figures expose ‘nationwide scandal’ in wake of unauthorised demolition of the Crooked House
Campaign group says government at all levels must stop developers flouting planning laws.
The Campaign for Real Ale has declared the unlawful conversion and demolition of pubs in England a ‘nationwide scandal’, following the high-profile case of the Crooked House in South Staffordshire.
Shortly after the pub was sold by Marston’s PLC, a fire destroyed much of the interior of the building on the weekend of 5 August. Under 48 hours later, the remaining structure of the building was demolished without planning permission. A public statement from South Staffordshire Council confirmed that the full demolition of the building was not mandated by the safety inspection that took place after the fire.
In 2017 planning law was changed so that pubs in England could not be converted or demolished without planning permission, but shocking figures published by CAMRA last week show that over 30 pubs may have been demolished or converted without planning permission in the last 6 months.
CAMRA’s Pub Campaigns Director, Gary Timmins, has now written to Rachel Maclean MP, Housing and Planning Minister, asking for central government to take action to deter unscrupulous developers and ensure that illegally demolished pubs are rebuilt ‘brick by brick’.
In the letter, Timmins wrote about the Crooked House:
“The complete destruction of this iconic pub has brought the nationwide scandal of the non-enforcement of pub protection legislation to the forefront of people’s minds.”
CAMRA Chairman, Nik Antona, added:
“This damaging practice must stop, and those found to have converted or demolished pubs against planning rules must be required to restore the original building brick by brick. If local authorities won’t provide adequate planning enforcement, then central government needs to step in to make sure that unscrupulous developers know that they will face action if they do the same.
“It is a tragedy that loved community pubs continue to be converted or demolished without planning permission in England, and that weak planning rules in Scotland and Wales allow this to happen legally. Government across the UK and at all levels needs to step up and get serious about protecting the UK’s treasured pub stock.”
Notes to editors
CAMRA’s Pub Closure Data is compiled from CAMRA’s pub database at whatpub.com and a full report can be downloaded from the CAMRA website at https://camra.org.uk/campaign_resources/camra-pub-closure-report-january-june-2023/
CAMRA’s Pub Data Team now carry out checks against reported conversions and demolitions to check whether planning permission has been granted. In 31 out of a total 95 cases in the period January to June 2023, we could not find a registered planning application in respect of the pubs, suggesting that the demolition or conversion has taken place without the required planning permission.
The full letter from Gary Timmins to Rachel Maclean, Minister for Housing and Planning reads:
Rachel Maclean MP
Minister of State (Housing and Planning)
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
2 Marsham Street
10 August 2023
RE: Demolition of the Crooked House, South Staffordshire, and flouting of planning protections for pubs
Dear Rachel Maclean,
I am writing on behalf of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, about the case of the Crooked House in Himley and the wider scandal of property developers flouting planning rules that protect pubs without serious and consistent consequences across the country.
CAMRA campaigns to support and save pubs (and social clubs) across the UK and we take a keen interest in planning matters, having been a part of the successful campaign to secure the removal of Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) relating to pubs in England in 2017.
Following the recent sale of the Crooked House by Marstons PLC, a fire destroyed much of the interior of the building on the weekend of 5 August. Under 48 hours later, the remaining structure of the building was demolished without planning permission.
From public statements by South Staffordshire Council, we now understand that the full demolition of the building was not required by the safety inspection that took place after the fire.
The complete destruction of this iconic pub has brought the nationwide scandal of the non-enforcement of pub protection legislation to the forefront of people’s minds.
Despite the removal of PDRs relating to pubs in England six years ago, we continue to see developers flouting the rules with pubs routinely converted or demolished without that permission in place. Figures compiled and released by CAMRA just last week showed that up to a third of closures and demolitions may be happening without the required planning permission, denying the local community the opportunity to save their local pub.
In the period January to June 2023, 64 pubs were converted or demolished in England with planning permission, however we are aware of a further 31 conversions or demolitions where we cannot find a planning application registered in respect of the pubs – and therefore may have taken place in contravention of planning laws.
This damaging practice must stop, and those found to have converted or demolished pubs against planning rules must be required to restore the original building brick by brick, as in the case of the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale and the Punch Bowl in Cockfosters.
This is a widespread failure of local planning authorities to deliver their enforcement duties, partly due to fear of costly appeals or legal action from developers. Central government now needs to step in bolster planning policy if necessary, so that unscrupulous developers know that they will face action if they breach the law.
The decisive and celebrated actions that the Government took to protect pubs – a national cultural treasure – in 2017 will be undermined if this situation is allowed to continue.
We would welcome to chance to meet with you to discuss our data and how planning enforcement can be strengthened to deter developers from flouting legislation and ensure that illegally demolished or converted pubs are restored brick by brick.
CAMRA National Director and Chair of Pub Campaigns