Labour’s candidate for Portsmouth South and councillor for Charles Dickens ward, Stephen Morgan, has concerns about pub closures in our city.
A number of the Portsmouth’s pubs are in a perilous position, and the city council recently rejected an application to list the Eldon Arms as an ‘asset of community value’. Stephen believes that was the wrong thing to do. Here, he explains why.
“In January, a pub closed by Enterprise Inns in Balcombe, West Sussex, was taken into community ownership. Local campaigners were successful in having that pub listed as an asset of community value. That was essential, because it gave them the time they needed to prepare their bid and keep their pub. I think we can take two lessons from this.
First, it is an example of the value communities place on their pubs. And rightly so. A good local pub is a crucial part of the British way of life. It brings people together and allows a space for relaxation and enjoyment, away from the stresses of day to day life.
The second lesson I take from that example is that listing pubs as assets of community value is itself a decision which has clear value to the community, because it creates an opportunity for them to be preserved. We should absolutely be doing this in Portsmouth, which has a fantastic collection of pubs with rich history. In recent years, we’ve seen far too many of them close. Pompey is proud of its pubs, and the council should be too.”
Stephen notes that a Labour amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill called for permitted development rights to be dropped. The amendment was passed.
This means that, if the bill comes into force, pub owners will have to submit applications for change of use, or to demolish pubs. At present, these are not required, which makes it very easy for companies to get rid of pubs.
“I will be very pleased to see the new law come into force. My hope is that the regulations are implemented swiftly when Parliament begins sitting again. Right now, a window is open for developers to advance their plans and continue turning valued community pubs into shops and car parks. The quicker that window is closed, the better it will be for our communities.
I appreciate that pub companies are operating in a difficult climate, and as businesses they have a right to make a profit. But I do have concerns that certain large companies appear to be choosing routes to profit which make the life of tenant landlords extremely difficult”.
Too often, the result of raised rents and costs or sell-offs result in both the end of a secure job for hardworking people, and the closure of an important community asset.
“Pubs are an excellent example of how a business can become a fundamental part of a community’s fabric.
It is always sad to see that fabric torn and discarded, when with a bit of creative thinking it could instead be repaired or renewed.
A community is poorer without a good pub, and I don’t want to see our communities made any poorer in any way.”