The future of the Cambridge pub is once again up for debate as City Council measures to stall the redevelopment of pubs in the city are to be challenged in the High Court by the The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).
The regulations, which according to the Council are the first of their kind, prohibit the sale of pubs unless the building has been marketed for at least a year. The rules also forbid "restrictive covenants", which bar the re-opening of a pub on the site, and disallow contracts which tie potential owners to their suppliers.
The BBPA, whose members brew 96% of Britain's beer, have requested a judicial review in response. According to industry newspaper The Morning Advertiser, the organisation has previously criticised the plans as ‘counter-productive in keeping pubs open', ‘an obstacle to development' and ‘extremely damaging' for freeholders forced to retain empty pubs.
The prohibition of tied leases is a particular blow to major pub companies seeking to redevelop their less profitable holdings. According to consultancy firm GVA, only seven Cambridge pubs are not tied to suppliers – by contrast, the brewery firm Greene-King alone owns 37 public houses.
The dispute takes place before a dismal scene for Cambridge publicans. Cambridge has 800 people for every pub, the highest of many similarly sized towns. Yet 25 of 111 pubs in Cambridge have closed down, been redeveloped or demolished in the last 5 years.
Many cases remain unresolved: The Ranch, near Tandoori Palace in Histon Road, is likely to become a test case for the legislation when plans to convert it into accommodation for Lucy Cavendish students are submitted, while The Penny Ferry/P&E, former pub and boatie landmark, still faces demolition.
Alex Jackman – News Reporter