Real ale group calls for tighter planning rules

The former Alexandra Pub at the top of Whelley, now a Tesco Express
The former Alexandra Pub at the top of Whelley, now a Tesco Express

WIGAN members of the Campaign for Real Ale are backing a national campaign to tighten planning regulations on pubs.

Recent figures show that the number of net pub closures in the UK remains high at 29 per week – almost twice the number as 2011.

These figures coincide with a new clause to the Infrastructure Bill in England, tabled this week by a cross-party group of MPs, which would mean that planning permission is always required before demolishing or converting a pub into a supermarket convenience store or other retail use.

At present, it is possible to convert a pub into a betting shop, pay-day loan store or supermarket without the need for planning approval.

CAMRA say this is far too easy for pubs valued by the community to be lost without local people having a say.

Vice-chairman of the Wigan branch Ken Worthingston said: “The campaign is to strengthen the planning laws so people have to consult the community.

“It’s the local community that loses out in the long run when the pubs go because there’s nowhere to go and drink.

“There’s nothing worse than going somewhere where the local pub has closed down and there’s nowhere to drink.

“People do just drink at home and get cheap drinks from the supermarket. CAMRA is trying to support the community.”

A number of Wigan pubs have gone this way with Tesco taking over the Alexandra pub in Whelley and the Lady Bowes Lyon in Beech Hill.

But real ale crusaders hope that an encouraging new era has begun.

“We do actually have a bit of reversal in Wigan at the moment in that we’ve got some micro-pubs opening,” Mr Worthington added.

“We have four of them and a couple of them have taken over from shops. Blundells at the top of Wigan Lane, there’s Doc’s Symposium near Mesnes Park which used to be a flower shop and there’s the Albion Ale House which has taken over from a shop.

“We’re doing our best to strenghten the real ale scene in Wigan and we’re supporting our local bars as much as we can, we’ve just had our recent round of awards as well.”