We must safeguard Leeds’ pub gems for future generations

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Campaigners have today called for increased legal protections for Leeds’s cherished pubs.

Landlords and real ale campaigners are backing a major drive to safeguard the city’s historic community pubs by establishing them as assets of community value.

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The drive comes after one market town succeeded in getting Leeds City Council to list ALL of its 19 pubs as valuable community assets - meaning the buildings can’t be redeveloped without the community having a final say.

The move in Otley - a UK first - has led to calls for similar protections to be extended to cherished public houses across the city.

Campaigners warn that under current legislation, local communities are not given a say under permitted development rights when pubs are closed or converted into a different use without needing a planning application.

However this is now not the case if pubs are classed as assets of community value (ACV) by their local council.

It is great that new powers...are being used to protect what we feel are key community hubs - and the only places to drink real ale.

Now the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in Leeds is hoping to follow the success of landlords and campaigners in Otley, who managed to get all 19 of the town’s pubs registered as assets of community value.

Leeds City Council is believed to be the first authority in the UK to add all of a town’s pubs to the register. There are currently around 600 pubs listed on the register in the country.

CAMRA is now campaigning for more Leeds pubs to be included.

Sam Parker, pub preservation officer for Leeds CAMRA, told the YEP: “Whilst we are still fighting for permitted development rights for pubs, it is great that the new powers associated with ACVs are being used to protect what we feel are key community hubs and the only place to drink real ale.”

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Leeds pubs The Templar Hotel and The Cardigan Arms are currently under review.

By the end of the year, CAMRA hopes to have all of Leeds’s historic pubs listed on the register.

Pubs on the register have to be subject to a full planning application before the owner can consider demolishing or converting it into an alternative use.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Leeds North West Greg Mulholland, who is also president of Otley Pub Club, recently led a major parliamentary debate which resulted in improving protection for pubs through the planning system.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted that all of Otley’s pubs are now listed on the register. It is a real triumph for the town and gives the pubs [much] needed protection from change of use or possible closure.

“I do hope that now other areas will start to list their valued pubs and that it will certainly be rolled out to all the valued pubs in Leeds.”

Last year more than 10,000 people signed a CAMRA petition calling for a change in planning law to prevent pubs being closed without the need for an application.

David Herbert, manager of Leeds’s oldest pub Whitelock’s - which was founded 300 years ago this year - said: “In the last few years pubs have struggled to stay open. It would of course be beneficial for a number of community pubs to have that protection. I’m definitely for an expansion citywide.”

WILL A SIMPLE LISTING BE ENOUGH TO PROTECT OUR PUBS?

The Yorkshire Evening Post’s long-serving beer writer Simon Jenkins says Leeds’s pubs are “the very definition of an asset of community value” particularly those suburban pubs which stand right at the heart of their local community.

But he also believes the protections offered by a community asset listing are meaningless unless the decision-makers are fully committed to the principle of protecting our pubs.

“Simply designating them as such can only have any true meaning if it feeds into other decisions by the council, especially the planners, who have allowed too many of these assets to be reused as shops or houses – or simply demolished,” he said. “And when a fabulous community pub like the Chemic in Woodhouse has its very existence threatened by a 30 per cent increase in its council rates bill, you have to wonder how committed the authority really is to protecting its pubs.”

Neil Walshaw, a councillor in Headingley, another of the city’s pub-rich areas, believes some pubs are “unsaveable because the demographic has changed”. However he agrees that “we have got to protect” those pubs which have particular value for communities for whatever reason.

“Some pubs are unsaveable because the demographics has changed,” he said.

“However there is always this cluster of pubs that mean a lot to people for various reasons.

“It is those we have got to protect, so listing pubs as a community value is a really good thing.

“If you can get pubs run as a community enterprise, then even better. We just have to be smart about which ones we choose.

“For example the Chemic Tavern pub in Hyde Park is a bit of an icon.

“But it is just not getting bums on seat.

“But if the community can rally around it, to get bums on seats and reduce its costs and get the right selection of drinks in, that would be brilliant.

“It is important to find out which ones the community are really interested in saving. The Chemic is an example.”

He added: “Extending protection to pubs is a really good idea, it would be really positive. Where communities and volunteers are campaigning to save pubs, we should support them as much as we can. So it is important to spot where the campaigns are.”

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