Converting pubs into c-stores just got a whole lot harder.
With more onerous planning changes coming into effect this week, the government has protected pubs listed as Assets of Community Value (ACV) under amendments to the Second Schedule of the General Permitted Development Order.
The listing of pubs in England as ACVs will see permitted development rights for change of use and for demolition of those pubs removed.
The Grocer understands major supermarkets have serious concerns about the changes, including the ability for local communities to request that non-listed pubs become ACVs.
Thomas Pearson, a commercial property partner at JMW Solicitors, which has recently helped complete 30 pub-to-store conversions for the big supermarket operators, warned the move could stall the pace at which retailers advanced their convenience store ambitions.
“This development is not terminal for planned schemes but it is a significant bump in the road for all those retailers looking to exploit the commercial merits of convenience stores. In effect, it means the regulars of pubs that might not already have been listed as community assets will have time to object to plans and send schemes back to the drawing board,” he explained.
“Retailers on whose projects we are involved fully understand the need to protect communities but question whether it’s necessarily something in the best interest of those areas because scrapping schemes would restrict different sorts of amenities and, of course, local jobs.”
Concern isn’t limited to major multiples, either. ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It will be a great shame if what you have is pubs remaining derelict for longer rather than being put to good use as it will be much harder to convert pubs listed as ACVs.”
The changes would “make the process of buying a pub that is ‘past its sell-by date’ - with a view to developing it as a c-store - a much more laborious process,” agreed Steve Rodell, director, head of retail, at Christie + Co.
Christie + Co data shows 80% of freehold pubs sold in 2014 remained as pubs, compared with 67% in 2013. As few as 2% of pubs sold in 2014 were converted to c-store use.
More than 600 pubs have already been designated as ACVs. The Campaign for Real Ale has revealed it wants to treble that number during the course of 2015.
Tom Ironside, director for business and regulation at the BRC, said the impact of the change on the growth of c-stores was impossible to gauge.