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Three key questions in the bitter battle to save pubs
PLANS to turn pubs into supermarkets and other businesses in the city will have to come under closer scrutiny in the future.
Oxford City Council wants ‘change of use’ proposals to face three key questions rather than the one used at the moment.
They are if the pub is a viable business, that efforts to market it have been made and that alternative pubs exist in the area.
But the council said a change in policy set by national planning bosses from 2001 meant only one currently needs to be met, the viability test.
Now it is to apply to The Planning Inspectorate – which changed the policy – so it can demand more than one of the criteria is met.
Executive board member for city development Colin Cook said: “We want to stop losing pubs in Oxford and make it more difficult for people trying to sell them off for uses such as accommodation.”
He said the council is also assessing each city pub for whether it should go on a list – the heritage assets register – that give buildings further protection.
These include “public houses of historic or architectural interest”.
Mr Cook said: “Getting these extra powers will enable us to stop more planning applications for a change of use in public houses.
“And we are working as hard as we can to achieve that.”
Planning permission is not required to convert a pub to a restaurant.
The council said it will need the backing of other councils and the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) to change its criteria policy.
Tony Goulding, CAMRA Oxford chairman, said it would help the council “lead the charge”.
He said: “This is what we have been fighting for. It is great to have the city council’s support, because not all local authorities are so enthusiastic about it.
“We absolutely need these measures to protect our pubs.”
He added: “The worst predators are the supermarkets at the moment, nowhere is safe from them, because they can do deals behind closed doors with breweries and suddenly just change the use with no proper process. We want that legal loophole to be closed.
“Pubs need legal protection so they can stop just disappearing.”
He pointed to the loss The Friar in Marston Road, Marston, set to be turned into a Tesco Express in the summer. Mr Goulding said CAMRA also supports pubs being designated “community assets” by the council, following a public nomination by an organisation.
Owners of community assets must put off any sale for six months so the community can put together a bid, though the owner has the final decision.
The council’s executive board will meet to discuss the proposed measures on Wednesday at Oxford town hall, St Aldate’s, from 5pm.
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