Send a message to the Mayor - protect Lewisham's pubs

Sydenham Councillor Liam Curran is asking for Lewisham residents to show their support for the recommendations of the Council's Sustainable Development Committee, which has a plan to halt the decline in the number of pubs in Lewisham, which has lost 53 pubs in the last ten years.

He says:

"The recommendations, if all combined and agreed would help enormously in helping to preserve what pubs we have left. Please email mayorsteve.bullock@lewisham.gov.uk and ask him to endorse the findings of the inquiry."

So what were the Committee's findings and recommendations?

Firstly, they acknowledge social factors such as changing tastes and lifestyles that mean the public appetite for pubs (or at least, for certain kinds of pub) has declined , but the group also identified four factors which are accelerating the decline, resulting in local communities being underserved:

- The land value is a key reason why pubs are being sold off or closed - for redevelopment
- Closed pubs that successful companies wish to buy and run as a pub are not marketed properly by developers so they can claim nobody wants it
- Pubcos run pubs into the ground with high prices so that the landlords give up and they can sell them off for redevelopment

In other words, in many cases, pubs aren't being given a chance to succeed. And this is the crux of the issue. There are lots of bad pubs out there - dangerous ones, miserable ones, ones that take no pride or pleasure in the range of beers they sell, ones that haven't adapted their business models or decor to account for changing tastes - pubs that still think it's OK to sell warm white wine or flat lager. These pubs deserve to fail, but only in order to be taken over by someone with more passion and ambition, rather than be turned in to flats. At the moment, aspiring landlords are being shut out of the market by property speculators.

In Brockley, The Talbot has found new life and new bars like The Gantry and The Orchard have thrived, while the Wickham Arms has been allowed to fall in to decline, with bids for the pub rejected.

The Committee recommends greater protection for pubs, to signal to owners that the Council won't just give in and allow pubs to be redeveloped. Only once the residential conversion option is withdrawn will pub-owners focus on how to create viable businesses again. The key recommendations of the Committee include:

- The Council should ensure that its economic viability test for pubs sets a new benchmark for best practice. The test should ensure that there is a high standard of evidence required to demonstrate the effective marketing of a pub before approval is given for demolition or change of use. The period of marketing to test economic viability should be increased to 36 months.

- The Council should update its register of community venues for hire to include available spaces in local pubs.

- Local residents and community groups are already entitled to put forward buildings for local listing but may not be aware that this is the case. The review should be widely publicized to make them aware of the process of applying for local listing.

- The Development Management Development Plan Document (DMDPD) should include enhanced protection for pubs through its ‘pubs policy’. Any new planning policy should assume a default protection for pubs both as a building and as a pub business with the onus on developers to prove why a particular building cannot any longer be a pub.

You can download the report here - if you like the ideas, let the Mayor know.

55 comments:

darryl said...

Good idea from Liam Curren, and if comments from those of us who drink rather than live in Lewisham borough are counted, I'm in.

Shame that over in "Royal" Greenwich, the council *rejected* an Antic application for a pub in Woolwich because it said there were *too many* pubs. If only they could learn from their neighbours.

Brockley Nick said...

@Darryl, cheers for the link, I hadn't spotted that story. Amazing. The more I read about Greenwich Council, the happier I am to have hopped across the border.

headhunter said...

Great idea....if a pub is not doing well then I guess market forces will have their say but if pubcos are selling simply to get money on the land and property value it's a shame. Also if pubs have be developed into flats then please God let it not be like the utter mess developers made of the crown and sceptre on friendly street...I mean it literally looks like a toilet block now....and the developers actuallyproudly put there name on it!

Shepherd's Bush Design Charter - Group 1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stef_W said...

Very useful Nick, thanks. Seems like eminently sensible suggestions. I'm entering the lottery tonight with the sole aim of saving the Wickham (and that doesn't mean gastro-ising it), having moved in over the road

Anonymous said...

Brockley Nick said...

"In other words, in many cases, pubs aren't being given a chance to succeed. And this is the crux of the issue. There are lots of bad pubs out there - dangerous ones, miserable ones, ones that take no pride or pleasure in the range of beers they sell, ones that haven't adapted their business models or decor to account for changing tastes - pubs that still think it's OK to sell warm white wine or flat lager. These pubs deserve to fail"

You seem to be writing off many honest pubs with that categorisation Nick. I wonder why...

Anonymous said...

it's not about the Council or anything like that - it's that running a pub is really hard work - and, on top of that the brewers take such a huge amount and leave the owners with, often, barely a liveable wage.

The brewers won't be budged by Steve Bullock getting on his high horse - they don't give a bugger about chicken-feed like him when they have a good lobby in the houses of parliament.

Oh, and supermarkets sell cheaper beer, so boozers get tanked up on that and then go to the pub. . .

Brockley Nick said...

"You seem to be writing off many honest pubs"

I'm not writing off any pubs. It's the owners who do. They run the pubs in to the ground and then claim that no pub could work at that location, when the truth is, they haven't tried.

"it's not about the Council or anything like that"

It's the Council that grants permission for a change of use. They don't have to and they shouldn't. That's what this report is essentially saying.

"it's that running a pub is really hard work"

Of course, like running pretty much any business. But there are plenty of people out there willing to take them on - at the right price.

"and, on top of that the brewers take such a huge amount and leave the owners with, often, barely a liveable wage."

Yes, it's true that pubcos try to drive margins too much - but the point is that's not a reason for the Council to allow a change of use, it's a reason for pubcos to offer managers better terms. If they don't want to do that then they can sell the freehold.

"Oh, and supermarkets sell cheaper beer, so boozers get tanked up on that and then go to the pub..."

Instant coffee at home costs nothing compared to a cup of coffee in a cafe. Yet loads of people pay to go out to cafes. That's because cafes are nice places to go and the businesses can charge a premium on the stuff they sell. Successful pubs operate on the same basis. Anyone who thinks they need to compete on price with supermarkets shouldn't be running a pub.

Alco pop said...

13:27 No he's not. Its a fair statement concluding on the evitability and benefits of market forces.

Very interested by the reports findings. Pubs still have a major role to play in 21st century Britain. Having a decent one near me (Jam Circus) was a major factor in choosing where I wanted to live. Equally there are some woeful options around Nunhead and Brockley rise. Losing them to flats is not the answer though...

Anonymous said...

At least we've still got the Wickham and the Brockley Barge - real pubs.

Brockley Nick said...

If you want to hang on to the Wickham, as I do, then you should support this set of proposals. Otherwise, I fear there's a good chance the owners will try to convert it.

Anonymous said...

I miss when pubs used to look like this. Remember those days - proper fare?

No olives on the tables, no "pan fried" whatever, no ciabatta and certainly no kids.

Take it away, the Flying Pickets...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgDKtLPp46s

Brockley Nick said...

And if there were enough people who felt the same way as you, there would be no problem. Pubs like that would be making a tidy profit.

Anonymous said...

Ciabatta and olives on the tables? Where are these pubs - in the Nineties?

Anonymous said...

Don't you miss those days, Nick?

Anonymous said...

The Barge is always full. Good ale at honest prices.

Most of the time I just cant be arsed to walk to the Wickham.

Brockley Nick said...

No. Firstly, I wasn't old enough to be allowed in a pub in 1982. I would have been one of those kids that you're so fond of.

Secondly, call me old fashioned, but I like women in pubs. I like talking to them and when I was single I liked trying to pull them.

Thirdly, I don't smoke. And I quite like coming out of a pub not stinking like an ash tray these days.

Fourthly, I find alcohol and sunshine perfectly compatible and I don't have to hide from my boss or my wife. So I like windows you can see through.

NAT said...

Havn't time to listen to a FP number right now unfortunately but it sounds like the Anon is describing MB's haunt of the Anonymi 'The glass half empty', 'where nobody knows your name'

Anonymous said...

Only You, Nick.

Anonymous said...

I miss the old Brockley Jack and Moonbows.

david said...

Totally agree, Nick, and I fully support the coincil on this one. It's nothing to do with old-schoool boozer vs gastro-kid friendly place. They're different business models for different markets and should have every opportunity to succeed fairly without a pubco, or anyone else, trying to force it to fail to release the asset. Pubs, either model, are the cornerstone of British society. Support your locals, everyone.

david said...

@Anon1500, isn't the Jack still open? It was Wednesday...

J.R. Shakerley said...

http://alternativese4.com/2011/11/20/mayor-steve-bullock-under-the-spotlight/

Personally I would wish there was a better channel of appeal than through the Mayor of Lewisham but *c'est la vie*.

Anonymous said...

David, early 00s Jack pre refurb, its more of family pub/restaurant now.

david said...

@Anon1542, having worked in the Jack in 2008 just post the major refurb (presume this is the one you meant, can't remember another happening since '98) I'd say the atmosphere didn't really change that much. Still had a boozer feel to it, but I haven't been in for a year or so, maybe the culture's changed more.

Matt Hero said...

TBH, I think the crux of this should retaining buildings built as public houses, remaining as public houses. It is, as suggested above, the issue of change of use from a pub to another form of use that needs to be resisted.

Seeing The Bun House in Peckham re-opening as a BetFred recently is a prefect example of this; the chances of it ever returning to its original function now is highly unlikely.

The form that any pub takes - the focus of much of the snobbery here, especially of the inverse nature - is pretty irrelevant. Fashion demand changes in what pubs offer and has always done so. That they buildings exist to continue to perform that function in the future is the important bit IMHO.

Anonymous said...

The Hope on Rye Lane is now a Paddy Power too, granted these pubs weren't the most salubrious, but it would be a shame if every dodgy pub was forced to close.

Anonymous said...

Food was actually quite nice but its definitely less of a booze now. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic, I worked there early to mid 00s.

Anonymous said...

I wish Brockley had a Harvester.

Anonymous said...

And a Toby Carvery, the essence of honest fare.

Anonymous said...

Essence of Honest Fare; a fragrance for a man or a woman by Top Chef

Anonymous said...

Blar blar blar...you lot have missed the fact that pubs are prime candidates for Betting Shops (or Pawnbrokers) being A2 Class. It's not just developers making crap conversions.

Brockley Nick said...

I don't think anyone's missed that. It's the same issue. No change of use should be allowed - whether to flats, bookies or anything else.

Ben H said...

What makes Dulwich and Herne Hill so nice is the scattering of cool pubs. Each one offering a nice atmosphere and tasty "fare". These pubs could have easily been lost to development before they had a chance to modernise and thrive.

If Brockley loses the few pub premises it has left they'll never come back, no one is going build a pub from scratch and large commercial units are pretty rare in these parts.

If Lewisham Council had half a brain they would know how valuable a decent pub is to a community.

Anonymous said...

Excellent fare down at Herne Hill. Good shout.

Tamsin said...

MH said "That they buildings exist to continue to perform that function in the future is the important bit IMHO."

Especially when they are as archetypal inside as the Walpole. Keep the building, as a frontage to the hotel and for dining and drinking. Anyone with the time and effort to spare to see if it is possible to list it?

Anonymous said...

I guess the Wickham site would be an attractive development opportunity. Bookie at the front, flats at the back, especially if they build in the garden.

I doubt whether the local council will put up much of a fight. The way things are going planning rules will relaxed to encourage business.

Brockley will be primarily a place to sleep. Night time entertainment is not something that is encouraged in this borough.

I cannot see preserving pubs being given any sort of priority.

Anonymous said...

John Millar Lewisham 's Head of Planning was on BBC 1 during the week...what you missed it?

One of his officers referred to a surplus of retail units and converting the empty ones in residential units.

They had a shot of what looked like Honor Oak parade.

How are the council going to force a pub owner to make a profit?

Pubs that have been profitable have been closed down.

Won't pub owners just appeal planning applications?

The Corbett Estate over in Hither Green has a thriving community without any pubs.

Maybe the Brockley menfolk need to get into the 21st Century and move on from buxom serving wenches?

M said...

Not quite true, there are no pubs in the Corbett Estate itself but several surrounding it - including the excellent Catford Bridge Tavern, one of the best pubs in Lewisham IMHO - and the recently refurbished Station.

Anonymous said...

Brockley will quickly turn into a terribly boring place if we don't save the few pubs we have left. The Wickham and Albertines both have enormous potential if someone could just give them both a good kick up the backside.

Anonymous said...

Red tape and taxes have been killing pubs for ages, but the real 'problem' is probably good old social change. The centrality of the pub is decreasing with the lessening of the power of patriarchy. More restrictions on property rights to suit some morally over-riding and ultimate fuzzy need that the nebulous 'community' feels it might have, will not work.
BTW If you want the Wickham to survive, just frequent the place.

Anonymous said...

There should be tax cuts for beer and lower taxes for free houses.


But local councils can't do thta.

Local council's need to be more committed to preventing change of use and being more flexible about live-music. Maybe even look at ways of promoting them.

brendan said...

in the long term, a land value tax would solve the problem (and many others) at source, ie land speculation.

Anyone know why the Maypole was demolished?

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't just rely on market forces as pubs have a social value beyond the fact that they are businesses.

IN this way they are not like restaurants, shops, petrol stations.

They are community hubs. A place where all sorts of people meet, drink, eat, socialise, stop being lonely, interact, connect, listen to music, network...and form the bonds of community. They are if anything more like community centres than purely businesses, which is why local councils need to stop them closing down.

Anonymous said...

You have a rather idealised notion of a pub.

In London, it has often been the case that pubs become the base for a clique or group of local families who do not like strangers in their midst. Some were the hang out of criminal gangs. The Brockley Barge was formerly the Breakspeares Arms and in it dying days it was drug dealer central.

Many local pubs went that way in this area and when their patrons expired or preferred to smoke and drink in front of their own big screen Sky box they became unprofitable. The pubs with dodgier customers often were the scene of some horrible incident that closed them down. The dying days of pub are not a pretty sight.

Squeezed between a shrinking customer base and the onerous terms of a PubCo license, they went out of business one by one. The value of the site being realised by re-developing as flats.

If the lease is owned by a PubCo, it is up to them whether they go down this route or invest in a refurb and reinvent the identity of the pub to give a new personality and attract new customers.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. One important factor is how big it is and whether it has kitchen space.

Brockley does not have many large pubs. Some say this was due to the original development of the area being in the hands of teetotal Quakers who had a rather different idea of a social hub.

There is not a great deal the council can do about the economics of pubs and the shape and size of the available buildings. Nor do they have very much influence over the national business strategies of PubCos.

This video illustrates the pressure Pubco landlords are under.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2012/mar/16/pub-closures-pubcos-landlords-punch-video

This one explains the background about PubCos and Breweries.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNZJeboAL9k

It looks as if many more pubs are set to close to dig the PubCos out of their debt mountain.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/mar/27/punch-taverns-debts-restructure

At a national level, there have been government committees looking at the issues and making reports.

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-innovation-and-skills/inquiries/parliament-2010/pub-companies/

Though the conclusion seems to be that aside from trying to advise and educate landlords about the financial implications of the licenses they take with PubCos. Not much else should be done by the government, the market will balance itself out eventually.

If there is any light at the end of this tunnel, it will come from the smaller concerns that remain outside the machinations of the huge corporations that dominate this business.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the last commenter. It should not just be left to the market.

For a start the market is massively interfered with by the government legislation and huge taxes and the fact that pubcos have a huge advantage over free houses.

Some pubs have bad elements but these usually are the ones that tend to close down. Many more nowadays are a positive social hub and act in many ways like community centres.

That is why they NEED to be saved.

M said...

It seems the Catford Bridge Tavern is now under threat. The landlord has made an application to convert the upper floors to flats and rent the ground floor to a retail chain.
http://www.hithergreen.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4963&sid=dffa925f7bf531ddf2998ce43638201c
That pub is the best thing to happen to Catford since the giant cat. It has to stay!

Brockley Nick said...

I just read the planning docs. The application is so poorly-written it deserves to be rejected on grounds of illiteracy. It's very hard to tell from that whether the proposal to convert is live or not.

Pubs have use class A4, which is not too hard to change to A1 retail, if the Council is supportive. No reason why they should be now that the pub has become such an asset to the area.

It would be a travesty if it were to happen now that the pub has been turned around.

M said...

Indeed. The pub do seem worried and are ready to fight. Nick,
Richard is planning to contact you.

Anonymous said...

I thought Antic usually own the freehold?

Anonymous said...

If the CBT closes it will be a disaster for Catford.

Anonymous said...

Oh FFS! I just moved to Catford from Brockley and one of the biggest postives was I am spitting distance from the CBT, I'd be genuinely devastated if it closed...

Brockley Nick said...

The moral of that story is never leave Brockley. No good can come of it.

Danja said...

Never leave Inner Brockley, surely?

Brockley Nick said...

True, after all Greater Brockley is really an organising framework for life - a philosophy, a state of mind. It can't be left. 'Once you've had Brock, you never go bock.'

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