The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has blasted the planning system for allowing pubs to be converted to convenience stores without applying for permission but not from convenience stores to pubs.
The conversion from pubs to shops are covered by what are known as General Permitted Development Rights.
“The lack of protection for pubs is a glaring anomaly in the English planning system which needs to be corrected,” said Camra head of communications Tom Stainer.
“It is surely not right that a supermarket convenience store is given greater planning protection than a valued community pub.”
The rules undermined the listing of pubs as Assets of Community Value (ACV) which were designed to help communities retain valued community assets by providing an opportunity to bid for the property if the owner intends to sell, Camra argued.
It cited the example of The Golden Harp in Maidenhead, Berkshire, which was converted into a Tesco supermarket in June even though the pub was listed as an ACV.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores expressed a degree of sympathy for Camra’s arguments although he said pubs that were converted were often derelict.
Lowman said he was “very much in favour” of looking at ways to make it easier for convenience stores to convert to pubs and bars if they wanted to as well as offer an element of on-licence like Spar & Eat 17 in Walthamstow, east London.
“I believe a trend towards the merging of retail and foodservice and retailing and hospitality which favours craft beer on tap and where you can sit down and have a burger is the direction of travel.
“It would be right if planning permission allowed flexibility to offer these services without having to apply for change of use,” he said.
Lowman added that he was not suggesting a free for all but the licensing and planning system should support businesses that wanted to change in line with consumer needs.