High street rental auctions “pose a serious threat” to pubs

5th July 2023 | Jack Oliver

High street rental auctions, which are set to be introduced as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, “pose a serious threat to pubs in towns and cities”, a pressure group has said.

In a letter sent to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, the Campaign for Pubs called on the Government to exclude long-standing pubs from being auctioned off or reopened for a different use.

Under currently proposed laws, local authorities will be able to require landlords to rent out persistently vacant commercial properties to new tenants, such as local businesses or community groups.

Campaign for Pubs said including pubs the same way as other commercial properties will cause the “unnecessary loss of viable, indeed profitable, town and city centre pubs and indeed, could assist cynical owners and developers who want to replace a pub with more lucrative usage”.

“We implore you to recognise that town and city centre pubs remain vitally important parts of town and
high streets and the priority must be for them to reopen, as a pub, not for them to be converted to a
shop or other usage”, it added, bringing attention to what it called “predatory purchasing” by supermarkets.

The letter, which was signed by the group’s pubs protection adviser, campaign director, and vice-chair, said that conversion of pub sites would “destroy their character”, rather than revitalising them.

“The reality is that once a pub, that may have served its community for many years, is converted to another use, it is lost forever. As currently drafted and without change, the well-meaning auctions proposal will escalate this at a time when organisations like ours are fighting to save pubs and keep alive our hugely important pub culture in the face of sky high energy bills, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis”, the Campaign for Pubs said.

The group suggested two changes to the bill; either exclude premises which have been pubs for over 50 years from being auctioned, or change the drafting so that these long-standing pubs can only be reopened as a pub.


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