Combined Authority and CAMRA launch protection initiative to save region’s historic pubs

Pub lovers are being encouraged to help protect their local as part of a new initiative to stop historic pubs being lost for good.

The West Midlands Combined Authority and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have joined forces in the wake of the Crooked House fire and demolition to review historical pubs in the West Midlands, and to ensure those of value that are at risk are properly protected.

As part of the ‘List Your Local’ campaign, residents are being encouraged to submit the pubs they believe are of historical significance to the region through the WMCA website.

The two organisations have already drawn up a ‘target list’ of suitable heritage pubs which, alongside the public’s recommendations, will be examined on a case-by-case basis to see if and how they can be protected. Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said:

“Protecting our local pubs isn't just about preserving bricks and mortar; it's about safeguarding the heart and soul of our communities.

“That’s why we’ve teamed up with CAMRA to take action in the wake of the Crooked House case to ensure we do not see a repeat of a beloved pub being put at risk of being consigned to history.

“We believe we have already identified some of the most at-risk historical pubs in the region, but we need people to make their recommendations to us to ensure we are helping to protect the right venues.”

Gary Timmins, director of CAMRA pub and club campaigns, added: “The complete destruction of the iconic Crooked House pub has brought a nationwide scandal to the forefront of people’s minds.

“Developers continue to flout the rules with pubs routinely converted or demolished without permissions in place, denying people the chance to save their local.

“Community assets need support if they are to survive and thrive against a backdrop of rising costs.

“CAMRA believes it is vital that local venues are marketed as going concerns and everything possible is done to secure their future as community pubs.

“We are also campaigning to give councils more powers to save and reinstate pubs after the Crooked House incident and call on the government to use the Autumn Budget Statement to extend vital help with business rates."

As well as reviewing historical sites, the WMCA and CAMRA’s review also explores how local plans can be better utilised to protect pubs, as well as recommending an extension to the hospitality discount rate. Pubs currently benefit from a 75% discount on their business rate bills, capped at £110,000, but this is due to end in March 2024. Alex Claridge, the WMCA’s night-time economy advisor, said:

“The entirely justified reaction of both local people and those across the country and the world to the loss of the Crooked House is testament to the deep cultural and emotional relevance of pubs and hospitality more to so very many of us.

“Whilst we will continue to apply pressure where we can to ensure a happy ending for the Crooked House, I'm committed to using that passion, energy and attention to extend the legacy of The Crooked House far and wide - starting with protecting unique pubs all over the region.

“Whether it's demolition, unscrupulous development, predatory energy companies or continued neglect at a policy level, these are perilous times indeed for heritage pubs.”

There are two forms of listings which are designed to provide pub protection status – one is under Historic England, the agency that looks after the country’s historic environment, and the other is the ‘assets of community value’ listing.

Listings managed by Historic England are protected in legislation. Demolition or alteration of listed buildings without planning permission is subject to a two-year prison sentence or unlimited fine.

There are 1,200 pubs in the WMCA area, yet only 133 of them are on Historic England listings.

An asset of community value, defined as locations which have a ‘main use or purpose of furthering the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community, and could do so into the future’ allows community organisations to have the first option to purchase the asset if put up for sale.

Only three pubs in the WMCA area are listed on the asset of community value register – with none in Birmingham, Dudley, Solihull, or Wolverhampton.

Since April 2021, CAMRA has identified 81 pub closures in the West Midlands. In the first six months of 2023, CAMRA identified 21 pubs in England which have been demolished without planning permission.

Marco Longhi, the Conservative MP for Dudley North, is campaigning for a new law to better protect heritage venues. He described the WMCA and CAMRA’s campaign as a “great idea”. He added:

“The events surrounding the Crooked House have shone a light on our current frameworks and it is clear that change is necessary.

“I have already met with senior government ministers, including Lucy Frazer MP with whom I discussed the heritage value of places like the Crooked House and methods to better protect them.

“I shared with her my thoughts on local registers being compulsory-held, and periodically reviewed, by local authorities with a risk rating being attached to them as well as the current methods such as asset of community value and Heritage England listings.

“I am delighted that Mayor Andy Street is lending his support to bring about change and I very much look forward to working with him and his team. This campaign is a great idea and I would like to engineer a more fit-for-purpose listing system with wider protections that go beyond listings.”

The Mayor and WMCA officials today met with Marco Longhi’s office, CAMRA, Historic England, and local authorities in the West Midlands as part of a roundtable to discuss ways of better protecting pubs.


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