Save our pubs

200 year old pub demolished200 year old pub demolished
There are still a few iconic sights left in our towns and villages. We have largely lost red telephone boxes, red London buses, independent shops and and second hand bookshops but we still have churches and pubs. The latter are, however, threatened. Pubs are now closing at a rate of two a day. This is three times the rate that it was in 2000. There are reasons such as the smoking ban, drink driving laws and cheap supermarket beer. However, one of the main reasons is demand for housing.

New Labour is relaxing planning laws. More housing is needed. However, there is still a lot of unused property and business can only afford to pay very low wages to immigrants (legal or illegal) if they can be housed relatively easily and cheaply. So houses are bought up and rented out for multiple occupancy, then there are the 'giro drops' which are needed to claim single person allowances which are more profitable than those for a couple and then council tax breaks for all those second homeowners.
The Barton Arms
still OKThe Barton Arms still OK

To obtain planning permission to turn a pub into a dwelling a viability test must be submitted and owners must prove that they have made efforts to sell it as a business. However, it is claimed that owners price pubs unrealistically or deliberately run pubs into the ground. Some do not even bother to prevaricate. In Bedfordshire, the Rose and Crown, a 200 year old pub was demolished without permission and those responsible fined the derisory sum of £2,000. So it's well worth breaking the law.

Camra states that

Today, the big Pub Companies exert more of a stranglehold on British pubs than the brewers did before them. And their increasing power drives independent pubs, smaller brewers and the traditional local into the ground. The Pub Companies buy most of their beer from the remaining "big four" brewers, and they demand rock-bottom prices. They then sell it on to the tenants of their pubs at much higher rates. The big brewers, in turn, demand lower prices from their suppliers -the farmers who produce the malt and hops. The Pub Cos and their bankers pocket the difference, while the tenant - and the beer drinker - picks up the bill: prices at the bar have more than doubled since 1990.

A 20th century disaster-
The Firestone Building
demolishedA 20th century disaster- The Firestone Building demolished

So we have the same scenario as the destruction of town centres by ugly supermarkets. We are losing our last vestige of community centres and with it a unique style of architecture. Many historic interiors have already been ripped out.

Traditional pubs should be saved whenever possible and it should be a duty of the local council. Pubs should be taken over as a community resource. As well as, or instead of, functioning as a pub they could act as the post office and local shop, in rural areas without these facilities. This is seen in rural ares in Italy and Spain where tiny communities are preserved in this way.

In towns many pubs have large meeting rooms and this is a vital resource that could be more widely used for : meetings, hustings, post office, classes ie the town version of 'the village hall'.

The Firestone building in Middlesex, a spectacular example of 1930s Art Deco was demolished in 1980 as it was about to be listed. There was a huge outcry but no-one was blamed.
Darling given his ticketDarling given his ticket
The same is now happening with our pubs and no one will be blamed or fined, it will be no one's fault. But it is. It is the fault of a centralised, thoughtless government. There should be corporate ASBOs with swingeing penalties for anti-social government and corporate misbehaviour.