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Planning and heritage are devolved matters; and this debate pack focuses on England (although it makes some comparisons to relevant policies in Wales).

Heritage assets

There is no statutory definition of heritage pubs. Heritage pubs may be designated or non-designated heritage assets:

The main test for whether a building should be listed is its special historic or architectural interest. An application needs to be made to Historic England, and the final decision rests with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports.

Requirements to change the use of, or demolish, a pub

Planning permission

Since May 2017, planning permission from the local planning authority is required to change the use of, or demolish, a pub. The government advises local planning authorities to consider the importance of retaining “accessible local services and community facilities”, such as pubs, and the heritage significance of pubs (where applicable) when deciding these applications.

Listed building consent

If the pub is a listed building, then listed building consent is also required. Local planning authorities may have to consult or notify Historic England before they decide these applications. It is a criminal offence to demolish a listed building without obtaining listed building consent.

Concerns about unauthorised demolitions

While many pub closures and conversions are carried out lawfully, there is concern some are carried out without the correct permission. In August 2023, the Campaign for Real Ale wrote to then Housing Minister Rachel Maclean claiming that, in the first half of 2023, 64 pubs were converted or demolished in England without planning permission.

For example, the Crooked House pub in the West Midlands was destroyed in a fire shortly after it was sold. Concerns have been raised that the pub was demolished without the correct permission. The local planning authority, South Staffordshire Council, has said it is investigating “planning and building control breaches”.

Fall in the number of pubs

Concern about the protection of pubs comes against the backdrop of a significant fall in numbers of them. Data from the Office for National Statistics puts shows the number of pubs has declined by around 13,000 between 2000 and 2019. It shows that, in particular, the number of smaller pubs (with fewer than 10 employees) has declined.

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