‘Pub-killing vulture’ developers’ dirty tricks to buyout boozers laid bare

The sneaky tricks used by developers working to close your local pub have been laid bare by campaigners.

Underhand techniques were exposed in a letter written by the action group Campaign for Pubs to the Prime Minister in August of this year. The letter was written after the high-profile destruction of The Crooked House in Himley in the West Midlands.

The group’s Campaign Director, Greg Mulholland spoke to the Daily Star off the back of the group’s calls to the government to implement greater protections for our boozers at a national level. The Give Pubs Protection campaign demands rules that mean “any historic pub (at least 50 years old) couldn’t be converted or demolished until and unless it has been properly marketed at the independently assessed value as a pub for at least a year”.

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It comes off the back of what Greg described as a “national scandal that viable, indeed profitable pubs are being deliberately run down, landbanked and stripped out, some left to the elements or to become a target for vandals, all so unscrupulous owners can push Councils to get their own way.”

Those techniques were laid bare in the letter to the prime minister. One such way is pricing a pub for sale so high that only developers could afford, meaning groups or landlords who want to keep it as a pub are priced out.

The letter explained: “It is the way that owners are permitted to sell pubs at hugely inflated freehold values in other words pricing pub buyers out and making the loss of the pub inevitable; and the fact that an owner can ignore a bid as a pub, from a potential owner who wants to run it as a pub, to sell it at an inflated value for development.”

It also noted that pubs with big gardens “inevitably” have a higher value to developers than publicans. The group criticised the current system which sees a lot of protection responsibility put onto the shoulders of local councils, which are often beaten down by the prospect of expensive legal bills.

"Planning law isn’t strong or clear enough and in too many cases, councils don’t resist pub conversions when they face rich and greedy owners/developers going to appeal (something that is still denied to communities!), which then sees the Council hit with a legal bill they can scarcely afford," the letter said

“Councils also are deceived that pubs are ‘unviable’ simply because they are told they are by the very owners who are seeking to profit from the conversion or development.” The group added: “Developers are buying (profitable) pubs just to run and shut them down and redevelop them. There is little to stop them”.

They slammed the current system which “only creates a right to bid, not the right to buy, so even if when the community group raises the money, an owner can simply ignore it – and instead sell for more money or redevelop the pub”.

Greg added to the Daily Star: "One of the things that exposes the absurdity of the current situation is that as we lose of historic pubs to corporate greed and council indifference, there are micropubs and bars opening in shops, showing that there is still a strong demand for pubs, yet we are losing so many historic ones unnecessarily, pubs that can and would be successful under the right ownership.

"One of the worst times for pubs closures is January/February so the pub-killing vultures will no doubt be circling and seeking to profit from destroying more of our historic pubs in the new year and it is high time that Government did something meaningful about it.

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