We are not unaware that the closure of the Old Spotted Dog is part of a wider malaise – in setting up this campaign we have uncovered a number of remarkable and worrying facts and have come to some conclusions.
For a number of years now we have been seeing pub closures.
- In the period 2008/12 nationally 4,500 pubs have closed.
- In Newham since 1991 25% of pubs have closed.
- In E7 in 1991 there were 20 pubs, 14 of which are now closed.
There was no consultation. No account was taken of local users, many of whom were older and less mobile. For many people, the local pub was a hugely important social hub.
Pubs at the heart of the community
Pubs have traditionally been at the heart of British communities.
We held social and political meetings there, and relaxed with colleagues and friends there afterwards; we dropped in after work, took our families for meals, played games; we enjoyed live music, quiz nights and, in recent years, came together to watch the big sporting events.
In pub halls we have held meetings, wedding receptions, birthday parties, funerals;we’ve run socials, dances, jazz clubs and folk clubs.
In their gardens we’ve spent sunny Sunday afternoons in the company of other parents, our children playing together where we could keep an eye on them.
We have relied on pubs to organise football clubs, darts matches, pool tournaments, trips to the seaside…
We need to understand some simple truths before it’s too late. Pubs are at the heart of our communities. Pubs are a vital part of our culture, just as necessary as shops and the post office. Pubs are dying and only our vigilance can save them.
According to CAMRA, a European tax league table produced by CAMRA and The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) pubgoers in the UK pay the highest proportion of tax in Europe at 55p in every pint.
In Germany they pay 5p, in Spain 5p, Greece 15p, Italy 14p, France 7p.
The beer tax escalator, introduced by the last government in 2008, means that beer duty is increased by 2% above inflation every year.
CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) are running a campaign to stop this and have an e petition so please sign up at saveourpint.co.uk
Supermarkets and Speculators
Planning permission doesn’t have to be sought to change the usage of a pub, so there is no public consultation. We have seen a big increase in pubs turned into supermarkets in recent years as the big companies are fearful of building on large sites during the recession.
As well, the housing shortage and big money that can be made by property speculators, means pub owners hold out for prices resulting in them being sold for development. However, when planning permission is required it means a local campaign can be started to stop the development.
The new Sustainable Communities Act and the National Planning Policy Framework gives councils new responsibilities for councils to promote the retention and development of local services such as pubs. This has been used successfully in a number of campaigns.
What can be done?
Essential to this are local campaigns to put pressure on councils and to work with councils to develop sustainable community policies to stop these closures. There is a lot of work to be done nationally and on the political front to make it easier for pubs to survive. CAMRA are taking the lead and giving advice on this for local groups. There is a parliamentary ‘Save The Pubs’ group. Julian Huppert MP has introduced a bill in parliament, which has reached its second stage, to protect pubs from being demolished or having their use changed.