- Pubs numbers across London fall by 2.4 per cent in 2016/17, but increase in seven boroughs
- Sadiq is strengthening planning to protect pubs and calling for local authorities to use these powers now
- Mayor urges government to cut business rates for pubs to support owners
On 29 June, Sadiq Khan, called for a united effort from government, local authorities and the pub industry to help protect the future of the capital’s pubs, as he released new figures showing that numbers continue their long-term decline across the capital.
The figures, published on 29 June, show that while pub numbers have increased in Hackney, City of London, Camden, Bexley, Greenwich, Hounslow and Lewisham, the numbers overall in London have fallen by 2.4 per cent, from 3,615 to 3,530.
Sadiq is doing everything within his powers to support the trade, including establishing more stringent planning requirements to help save pubs, appointing a Night Czar to champion London as a 24-hour city, and establishing a world-first “Culture at Risk” Office to help save pubs for communities. But today’s figures make it clear that more needs to be done and he has called for more support to help the capital’s pubs, which play such an important role in local communities.
The Mayor wants the Government, local authorities and the industry to follow his example and do what they can to play their role. This should start with the Government reviewing its valuation policy for pubs following large rises in business rates which are saddling pub owners with soaring bills. The Mayor wants to see the Government use its powers on planning, taxation and regulation to help support these vital community hubs.
Between 2000 and 2018, demolition of pubs has been the most common reason for pub closures in London. Sadiq is calling on local authorities to step up to become stewards of their local pubs and to use the tighter planning powers in his draft London Plan to support their pubs.
The Mayor’s draft London Plan, which is the most pro-pub planning framework the capital has ever seen, has acknowledged the key role pubs play in our communities by urging boroughs to resist applications to redevelop beer gardens, ensure new residential developments near to pubs are suitably soundproofed so they can co-exist, and support new pubs to be built. Local authorities can also consider allowing extended opening hours, where appropriate, to help increase income and relieve pressures from business rates.
The problem of falling pub numbers is not a new one with numbers declining since the 1960s. It is thought to be down to a number of pressures, including changing drinking habits, development, rising rents and business rates. Small pubs are the most vulnerable, with a 50 per cent fall since 2001 (3,390 to 1,710 pubs) while the number of larger pubs has increased by 28 per cent over the same period (405 to 1,445 pubs). Although the number of pubs in London fell in 2016/17, the number of people employed by pubs has remained steady at 46,400 people.
Sadiq’s annual pub audit, in partnership with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), is part of his commitment to protecting the capital’s culture.
The Mayor will also be commissioning new research to help identify the full picture behind the falling numbers – particularly in small pubs – and give pubs more of the tools they need to help secure a more sustainable future, wherever they are in the capital. This could be by providing a more diverse offering, providing space for local community activities, or considering their offer of food, hot drinks and non-alcoholic alternatives. For example, The Owl and Pussycat in Northfields is a microbrewery inside a former children’s bookshop; The East Dulwich Tavern has a range of community events such as a ‘Bring Your Own Baby’ comedy session; and the Eagle in Farringdon which is commonly regarded as the first ‘gastropub’.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The traditional London pub has been at the heart of London’s communities for hundreds of years, but sadly they continue to face a long-term decline in numbers. As Mayor, I have made safeguarding and growing London’s night-time economy a priority, and am doing all I can to protect the capital’s iconic pubs. By creating the most pro-pub planning strategy the capital has ever seen I’ve shown what can be done, and I want to see the Government and local authorities match my ambition and help protect these key community hubs for generations to come.”
Geoff Strawbridge, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Regional Director for Greater London said: “I am delighted that the WhatPub database, developed and maintained by CAMRA volunteers, has proved so helpful in providing statistics and indicating trends. CAMRA Branches would like to see all London Boroughs adopting robust pub protection policies in their strategic plans and enforcing them in their planning decisions. The Mayor’s Draft London Plan highlights the importance of London’s pubs as part of our heritage and culture and we commend the efforts of his team in reinforcing his message.”
Cllr Steffi Sutters, Wandsworth Council’s cabinet member for community services, said: “We began offering greater protection to our most cherished and historic local pubs in the summer of 2014 when we ran a successful campaign to stop one of Tooting’s best loved from being turned into a mini-supermarket. Since then we have used our planning powers to add extra layers of protection from closure and redevelopment to more than 120 Wandsworth pubs that have all been identified as having historic or architectural value, are in a conservation area or make a positive contribution to their community. We are just not prepared to sit by and watch all our local pubs close or become supermarkets or estate agents. The best way to protect London’s pubs is to use planning powers to preserve our common cultural and architectural heritage.”
Cllr Matthew Bennett, Lambeth council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Investment & New Homes, said: “Many pubs in the borough play an important role in the fabric of our communities. They contribute to our local character, act as a hub for interaction and also boost the local economy. We know they are under pressure which is why Lambeth council will be using its planning powers to bring in stronger protections for pubs. We are also helping struggling non-chain pubs in the borough by covering the cost of recent rises to business rates. In the past year we have awarded almost £200,000 of business rate relief to pubs in Lambeth who were affected by the Government’s damaging business rate increases last year.”
Anthony Thomas, Founder, Antic London, said: “Public houses have been a vital part of the urban fabric of London for many hundreds of years and whilst much has changed over the very many years since Londoners first clinked their jars in a toast to good health, the need for a convivial, broad refuge, one at the very heart of the community it serves, is as relevant today as it has ever been. Perhaps this is ever more so as we creep further towards individualism and the tendency to become socially secluded, a trend that will pull at the very fabric of our collective identity, and with it, our understanding of what this great city means to the idea of us. We believe that a great pub is imperative in bringing communities together and in so doing, do its bit to encourage social cohesion. They should be as varied and quirky as the patrons that they serve, a broad stage if you will, one upon which the rich tapestry of life can be played out, ably encouraged with good food, good drink, but above all, good times. Cheesy perhaps, but in this post Brexit world, who doesn’t want for that?”
Hannah Pierce, Events Programmer, Antic London, said: “We use interesting events form ‘bring you own baby’ comedy nights, to headline DJs in a boozer, art trails, cabaret and theatre. It’s not about taking away the experience of enjoying a quiet pint in a good local pub, that can still be done in one of our sites, but instead offering the option to participate in a broader programme. Antic are going beyond re-opening existing pubs, and are bringing to life old buildings where communities have previously gathered…cinemas, social clubs and old post offices amongst them.”