Steve O’Connell, author of Keep Local: How to Save London’s Pubs as Community Resources, is concerned about the growing number of pubs closing down, and has called on Mayor of London Boris Johnson to protect our pubs. So if you are about to treat yourself to a well earned pint, or two, this bank holiday weekend, how about heading to your local?
For the first time, the protection of local pubs was part of the Mayor of London’s plan, but Steve O’Connell, Sutton and Croydon’s member of the Greater London Assembly, is concerned about the growing number of pubs calling last orders.
O’Connell has written to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to call on him to recognise the role pubs play in communities, and to do more to protect them from closure.
Johnson encouraged councils to do more to protect pubs in his latest London plan, however, O’Connell believes he must now “strengthen this protection further”, and stop pubs from being converted if it can be demonstrated that they are an asset to the community.
In Keeping Local, O’Connell stated that there needs to be a requirement for “robust market testing for empty pub sites before any redevelopment can be considered”.
“This means a potential developer would have to prove that they’ve marketed the site to prospective landlords for a reasonable amount of time, before planning permission can be considered for a new development such as housing.”
“I would also like to see other strict criteria such as the need to demonstrate the pub has been vacant for at least two years, ensuring the character of the street scene is not detrimentally affected, and ensuring significant features of historic value are retained.”
For the last two years, David Frederiksen, 36, has been managing the 19th century Royal George pub in Tanner’s Hill Street, Lewisham.
In his opinion, the main problems local pubs are facing are due to high rents and bills the owners have to pay, adding to differences in the society.
“People don’t want local pubs anymore. They just care about where they can get the cheapest beer”, he told ELL.
“Some old people are dying here and there is no return of young people as they don’t have £15 or £20 to spend on four pints anymore, because their wages are less.”
Recently Frederiksen started to serve food in order to remain competitive to other pubs.
“If ten years ago I told someone that I would serve food in here, they would laugh at me”, he says. Nowadays, though, the Sunday Roast is a great help on the pub’s revenue.
For David, is a shame that local pubs are closing down, “On a Friday night, it is lovely to see an old person talking to a younger one, which never happens on the street.”
Even though, the Mayor seems to be worried about protecting local pubs, the owner of Royal George doesn’t believe he can avoid the closing down of some of them, “They will keep the buildings, but not the pubs.”
By Marta Portocarrero