Wandsworth Council has just taken the unprecedented step of issuing a non-immediate Article 4 Direction to withdraw permitted development rights relating to demolition, alteration and changes of use from 120 pub and bar sites in Wandsworth “due to their historic or architectural value or because they make a positive contribution to their community”. Unlike an immediate direction however, it will not take effect until 14 August 2017 at the earliest.  The Council have to confirm the Direction and this cannot take place until after public consultation.  The consultation period runs until 12 September 2016 and the Council is required to take any representations into account. You can reply to the consultation at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/article4.  Also, the proposed Direction must be referred to the Secretary of State so it may yet be modified or varied.  The cynics among us believe this 12 month stay has more to do with avoiding the requirement to pay compensation for loss or damage attributable to the withdrawal of the rights than allowing the Council a period of reflection.

Wandsworth, and many other Councils, have issued individual article 4 directions to protect specific pub sites, but this is the first blanket direction, and is an attempt by the Council to stop “the relentless spread of mini-supermarkets and estate agents”. With pubs closing at a rate of 21 a week (according to CAMRA), 3 of which are in London, we may see more of these directions in the future.

Watch out for Councils beefing up planning policies to protect pubs – they need to do this first in order to be able to justify refusals for the planning applications which will have to be submitted once the Article 4 Direction is effective and permitted development rights are withdrawn.

Pubs do of course already have other protections such as listing as an asset of community value (ACV). Permitted development rights for changes of use and demolition have already been withdrawn from ACV-listed pubs (although a listing only lasts for 5 years).  Even where the pub is not currently listed owners/developers have to submit a written request to the local planning authority to ask whether the building is the subject of an ACV nomination and cannot carry out any work for 56 days (by which time a nomination may well have been triggered) and the permitted development rights must then be used within a year of the request.  This is where the would-be developers of the Carlton pub in Maida Vale slipped up – they demolished the pub 2 days after this new requirement had been introduced and were ordered by the Council to rebuild it brick by brick, an order which was upheld last month by the Planning Inspectorate.