CAMRA details pub-to-supermarket conversions

More than 200 pubs across England, Wales and Scotland have been converted into supermarkets during the past two years, according to research from the campaign group the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Since January 2012 Tesco has converted 110 pubs into supermarkets
Since January 2012 Tesco has converted 110 pubs into supermarkets

The group said retail giant Tesco was responsible for more than half of the 208 pub-to-supermarket changes of use it is aware of since January 2012. It called on the government to tighten current rules and require full planning consent for such conversions.

Under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, no planning permission is required for a change of use from premises classed as A4 drinking establishments to class A1 retail.

CAMRA said that since January 2012 Tesco had converted 110 pubs into supermarkets, Sainsbury’s 29 and the Co-op 23, with a mix of independents and smaller chains making up the remainder. The figure indicates a converstion rate of around two pubs a week, a trend that the group said has been consistent for around four years.

CAMRA chief executive Mike Benner said supermarket operators are specifically targeting pubs for redevelopment, often against the wishes of local people, because no planning permission is required for the move.

"Allowing pubs to be converted to supermarkets without planning permission is ludicrous, and something which the government need to address as a matter of urgency," Benner said.

"The big supermarket chains appear to be targeting pubs for conversion despite the fact that these pubs are often profitable and popular. This behaviour shows a remarkable disregard for the wellbeing of communities that face losing their valued pubs – leaving local people powerless to step in."

Benner urged more people to register their local pub as an asset of community value (ACV) under the Localism Act 2011. The ACV regulations offer local people a six-week window to lodge an expression of interest if a pub is ever marketed, followed by a four-and-a-half-month period for a full bid to be prepared.

Benner said that while more than 300 pubs now have ACV status, it is no guarantee of security. "At the very least the government must act to ensure pubs that are listed as assets of community value can't be turned into supermarkets overnight," he said.

"It is outrageous that even valued pubs listed as ACVs are given virtually no protection from the clutches of the ever-expanding supermarket chains."

It is not the first time that CAMRA has called on the government to tighten planning rules on pub conversions. In January 2013, planning minister Nick Boles argued that local authorities could use article 4 direction powers to protect pubs, following requests for action.

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We have brought a number of disused former pubs back to life by transforming them into convenience stores. These stores provide a valuable service to local communities and make sure empty or derelict buildings do not fall into disrepair."

CAMRA’s list of pubs converted to supermarkets can be seen here.

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