The independent trade is turning up the heat on the government in a campaign to close loopholes that allow pubs to be converted into convenience stores without having to go through the full rigours of the planning process, reports today’s Independent Retail News.
Retailers up and down the country are facing the threat from multiple operators, particularly Tesco Express, that buy local pubs and, because there is no change of use, only need to submit planning applications for signage and shop fronts.
Some independents have taken advantage of the lax planning rules by snapping up closed pubs, but Tesco and other multiple operators have been the most active in the pub property market.
Tesco recently won permission to open a store in the former Green Jacket pub in Shoreham, West Sussex, while the supermarket giant plans to convert the former Three Elms pub in Dedworth, Berkshire, into a convenience store.
Residents in Weston-super-Mare are angry Tesco wants to turn the former Bristol House pub into a c-store, while the retailer is also in talks to buy the Chequers pub in Orton Wislow, near Peterborough.
Newsagent Hari Patel, of R&V Newsagents in Godalming, Surrey, has already collected 3,500 names to a petition objecting to plans for a c-store on the site of the town’s Godalming Arms pub, next door to his 1,000sq ft shop.
Patel, who has run the business for 24 years, is hoping the Tesco scheme will be thrown out on highways grounds because the site is on a main road and close to a school. He is planning to get the support of local MP and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.
He feared for the future of his stop if a Tesco Express opens as planned by the end of the year. “Eventually our shop will close. That’s what is going to happen. It has become a nightmare,” he said.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) is calling on ministers to make multiple operators go through the full planning process after snapping up pubs for conversion to retail use.
“This aggressive strategy of directly competing with independents, at a time when micro-businesses are struggling to secure bank lending, is responsible for the decline in independent retail outlets,” said NFRN president Alan Smith.