Call to make it harder to convert pubs

Tesco Express, Whelley - formerly The Alexandra pub
Tesco Express, Whelley - formerly The Alexandra pub

THEY were community centres before the phrase was thought of ... the beating hearts of towns.

But many Wigan borough pubs and clubs are under big pressure to survive because of the economic squeeze and changing social habits.

And the pub co owners are more than happy selling them off – with planning powers currently unable to hold back the tide - as restaurants, supermarkets or apartments instead.

Now council chiefs have agreed to support calls by save-our-pubs guardians to consider toughening development powers to give landlords at least a fighting chance.

Councils and local communities should always have a say before a pub is demolished or converted into another use, warns the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

And in two months’ time Wigan planning chiefs have agreed to launch a public consultation to see if it too has a mandate for new development powers to save the Wigan pubs and social clubs that we still have left.

Council deputy leader Coun David Molyneux said it shared CAMRA’s concerns about the need for planning consent and supported its call for the Government to amend the legislation. He said: “We will also consider the need for a policy in our own Local Plan to address these issues, which we will be consulting on in October and November.

“Where pubs and clubs play an important role in a local community or in our town centres we want to prevent them from closing down.”

Chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit which helped with the report, Jonathan Carr-West said: “Pubs play a vital role in many communities but across the country this precious resource is being lost at an alarming rate.

“Councils play a crucial part in protecting pubs and we hope that local authorities will draw inspiration from the examples featured in this report and act now to prevent our pubs from disappearing forever.”