Letter to the Secretary of State about concerns surrounding the future of local pubs

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Minister for Intergovernmental Relations

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

6 July 2023

Dear Michael,

I am writing to you today to express my concerns about the threat posed to the future of local pubs by the High Street Rental Auction scheme (HSRA), currently subject to consultation. My concerns can be summarised as follows:

1) Increased Rental Costs: The Government’s own consultation documents show that the rental auction scheme may drive up rental costs for commercial properties, particularly pubs located on high streets. In an auction setting, landlords could potentially charge higher rents as businesses compete for limited spaces. This could impose a significant financial burden on pubs, especially smaller and independent establishments already struggling with high operating costs.

2) Limited Access for Local Businesses: The rental auction scheme may disadvantage local businesses, including pubs, as larger chains or businesses with greater financial resources may have a competitive advantage in winning bids for prime high street locations. This could lead to the displacement of local pubs in favour of larger chains or businesses, potentially reducing the diversity and character of high street establishments.

3) Impact on Pub Culture and Community: Pubs are integral parts of UK culture, serving as community hubs that provide spaces for socialising, local events, and support networks. If the rental auction scheme leads to the closure or relocation of pubs, it could disrupt community cohesion and diminish the social fabric of neighbourhoods.

4) Loss of Historic and Cultural Significance: Many pubs in the UK have deep historical and cultural significance, often housed in unique and traditional buildings that contribute to the architectural heritage of high streets. The closure or relocation of pubs due to rising rental costs or changes in location could result in the loss of these historic and culturally important establishments.

5) Negative Economic Impact: There’s a wealth of evidence that pubs play a significant role in the local economy contributing to job creation and attracting tourism. The closure or relocation of pubs due to the rental auction scheme could lead to job losses, affecting both direct employment in the hospitality sector and related industries that benefit from pub patronage. It could also diminish the attractiveness of high streets for visitors, potentially impacting local businesses more widely, as well as tourism revenue.

My constituents and I strongly support the aim of bringing vacant pubs back into use, but creating new permitted development rights would roll back the 2017 protection against conversion or demolition, and the creation of new planning use classes in 2020/21. I am therefore calling on you to ensure that pubs retain their planning permission and to protect their value to communities and the economy. 

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Yours sincerely

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