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Protecting our pubs – Council adopts planning policy

In a move to protect public houses in the borough, Waltham Forest Council has adopted a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) in a bid to recognise the importance of the local pub as a valuable community asset that contributes both to the local economy and to local character.

The Public Houses SPD will form part of the Council’s Local Plan and will seek to protect and retain pubs. It works by helping the Planning Committee determine planning applications relating to the loss of a public house.

The SPD sets out a series of policy tests that would have to be passed before the loss of a pub should be approved, and applies to pubs whether they are open or closed. The key tests are around Viability, Marketing, Heritage Value, Community Value, and Location.

Applicants would need to provide evidence a pub can no longer function as a viable business by providing details of the last three years trading accounts, along with details of what measures have been tested to increase trade.

They would also have to evidence that the pub was prominently marketed for a minimum period of 12 months. Even where it can be demonstrated that there is no genuine interest in the site’s re-use as a pub, a further marketing exercise will be required for alternative social infrastructure uses.

Of the 65 pubs in the borough, 22 are in buildings that are listed, locally listed, or make a positive contribution to a conservation area or local townscape. Any applications in relation to these pubs would need to put forward development proposals that cause no harm to the heritage value.

Consideration would also need to be made in relation to pubs that are situated within a designated town centre or local parade, because they play a role as a focal point. Similarly consideration must be given to pubs that have been registered as an Asset of Community Value or that the Council has recognised as a valued facility providing a community function and offering opportunities for social interaction.

The SPD will only apply to development proposals requiring planning permission. Under national planning policy, the change of use from a pub to uses such as shops, restaurants and cafes, banks and building societies, and betting offices do not normally need planning permission. However, as of 6 April, pubs that have been registered as an Asset of Community Value would need planning permission for such proposals, or for their demolition.

The Council cannot itself apply for a pub to be registered as an Asset of Community Value, and is therefore encouraging residents to apply for their local pubs to be registered as a means of further protecting them. For further information on Assets of Community Value go to the Council’s website at or contact the Planning Policy Team at or on 020 8496 6748.

It is important to underline the fact that all Planning Applications are dealt with on a case by case basis. However, the SPD means that the Planning Committee should only agree to the loss of a pub if they pass all the tests or in cases where there is little support for the protection of a pub e.g. where there have been licensing and crime and disorder issues.

PHOTO: The Heathcote Arms – the only pub in the borough to currently be registered as an Asset of Community Value.

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