The Co-operative Group has become the first major retailer to commit to protecting local pubs. It has joined the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to create development principles for convenience stores on pub sites.
The guidelines, which include not standing in the way of any group seeking to acquire and run a community pub, highlight the importance of retaining successful locals, but recognise that some close due to poor trading and cannot be retained as pubs.
From 1 January, the Group – which ran into opposition last year from residents over its plans to build convenience stores on former pub sites in the West Midlands – will develop pub sites using the planning process, not permitted development rights, and will encourage developers wishing to convert pubs to do the same.
It will assess the social value of each trading pub it is offered as a lease or development opportunity and further investigate pubs with Asset of Community Value (ACV) status.
It will make information public as soon as possible about the sites it develops, although this does not apply to sites where it is leaseholder. If it develops land next to an existing pub, it will aim to enhance the viability of both the new store and the existing pub.
A key guideline is to listen to the community, including CAMRA branches, and to meet to discuss concerns. The Group will talk to CAMRA when exceptional circumstances mean it may not be possible to fully adhere to the principles.
The principles do not relate to pub sites where the Group has existing legal arrangements but cover new contracts with developers and property owners.
CAMRA chief executive Tim Page, said: “The Co-op clearly recognises the value that pubs add to the communities they serve and also the fact that supermarket developments can not only co-exist alongside pubs, but that both benefit each other. We’d urge all retailers to be as forward thinking and community-minded as the Co-op when it comes to planned developments which might have an impact on valued community locals.”
Steve Murrells, retail chief executive at the Co-operative Group, said: “Pub closures are not on our agenda. Our new commitments for future store developments serve to highlight the importance we place on working with communities.
“We already assess the social value of a pub before entering into agreements to ensure we develop on sites where owners decide to close because of poor trading or which have ceased trading. Many of our new convenience stores have also been successfully developed in spaces adjacent to pub sites for the mutual success of both businesses. These principles strengthen our existing practices to give communities more of a say.”