Pub protection pays off in Wandsworth

Pubs in Wandsworth are faring far better than those neighbouring boroughs, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed.

The Alma, Wandsworth Town is one of the 120 pubs protected

Wandsworth has lost 15 pubs since 2001 – a fall of ten per cent. However, this compares favourably with neighbouring boroughs like Lambeth who have seen a fall of 24 per cent (45 pubs lost) and Merton where the drop is 40 per cent (30 pubs).

In 2016 Wandsworth was the first local authority in the UK to bring in measures to protect its most important pubs from redevelopment. Under ‘Article 4 Directions’ changes to borough pubs have to go through the planning process, rather than being automatically allowed under ‘permitted development’ rules. This means they can no longer be converted into other venues, such as mini-supermarkets, without the need for planning permission.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) this week said the council’s use of Article 4 Directions ‘gives out a very clear message’ to potential developers that turning pubs into shops or homes is unlikely to be permitted, and that the regeneration of the borough was likely to lead to more demand for pubs in the future, not less.

The Queen's Arms and The Stag in Battersea have both been protected

Geoff Strawbridge, regional director of Greater London CAMRA, said: "Wandsworth has given out a very clear message that developers are going to have to find very good reasons for change of use against the council’s strong criteria. The policy is upping the chances of the borough keeping its pubs open.”

Wandsworth’s pioneering policy led the way nationally, with a change to permitted development rules introduced across the UK in 2017.

Councillors can refuse applications to convert or demolish 120 protected pubs. Most recently in August the owners of The Queens Arms, a Victorian-era pub in St Philip Street, Battersea that had been empty for two years, were given permission to extend and reopen it. A previous application to turn it into a shop was withdrawn because the building was subject to an Article 4 direction.

Other successes include The Stag in Westbridge Road, Battersea. It was due to be demolished, but local residents rose to the challenge and successfully lobbied the council to protect the building by making it an Asset of Community Value in May 2017, in advance of the Article 4 Direction coming into force in August 2017. These actions saved it from the bulldozers. 

The ONS report shows that across the UK nearly a quarter of pubs have closed in the last ten years – with small community pubs especially badly hit.

Mr Strawbridge added: “The statistics show that the numbers are holding up in comparison with other boroughs, and Wandsworth’s growing affluence is doing a lot of good for its pubs. The council needs to remain vigilant with incoming applications and keep up the good work.”

In all, 120 Wandsworth pubs have been protected by Article 4 Directions.  They include The Alma, The Ship and The Cat’s Back in Wandsworth, The Bricklayers Arms and Arab Boy in Putney, The Plough, Falcon and The Beehive in Battersea, The Selkirk, Trafalgar Arms and Wheatsheaf in Tooting and the Bedford and Regent in Balham.