Wandsworth makes pub protection progress

Wandsworth Council is to publish new draft planning policies this September which would offer local pubs like The Wheatsheaf in Tooting protected status and give the council real powers to stop them being converted into shops.

Councillors at the Strategic Planning and Transportation Committee were told that the new supplementary planning guidance is now being drawn up. It could be brought into force next year following a statutory consultation.

Currently permitted development rights allow town centre properties, including pubs, to switch between different uses without the need to apply for planning consent.

Even if the permitted development rights are removed – which can be done through an Article 4 Direction – a local council would not usually be able to refuse a planning application to convert a pub into a shop as national planning policies promote flexibility.

Once Wandsworth Council has officially amended its planning policy to protect local pubs it would have powers to refuse change of use applications and could remove permitted development rights from pubs which come under threat.

Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said: “The only way to stop the Wheatsheaf and many other well loved pubs being turned into shops is to give them protected status within our local planning policies. Officers have now begun drafting the supplementary planning guidance and we expect it to come into force next year once the statutory legal process has been completed.

“We are one of the first councils to go down this route and take the decisive action necessary to protect the local pubs our residents value so highly. Our pubs are the centres of our communities and deserve special recognition within our planning policies.”

The committee backed an Article 4 Direction for The Wheatsheaf in Tooting which removes the owner’s permitted right to demolish the building.

Councillors were advised that an Article 4 Direction to withdraw the owner’s right to change the pub to another use would not protect the Wheatsheaf at this stage. This is because the council would not be able to refuse a planning application until local pubs have been given protected status.

Granting an Article 4 on change of use now could also mean local taxpayers would have to compensate the pub’s owners for the loss of permitted development rights.

Last night’s committee instructed council officers to explore further the financial risks associated with a change of use Article 4 Direction. The results of the investigation will be reported to the committee in September.

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