17:54 Wednesday 7th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: The demise of the pub in the county continues. Planning applications to remove three more pubs from Cambridge have just been submitted. They are The Royal Standard in Mill Road, The Greyhound in Coldhams Lane, and the Seven Stars in Newmarket Road. They could all be destined to be knocked down or converted into flats and businesses, in the face of, it has to be said, stiff opposition from some residents. Well Paul Ainsworth from CAMRA joins me now. Paul. Well we’ve discussed this before haven’t we?
PAUL AINSWORTH: Yes we have.
CHRIS MANN: Because there’s already been quite a toll in the last decade on pubs around the county, and specifically in Cambridge. But this is three more. What do you think?
PAUL AINSWORTH: Three more. That’s right. It goes on and on. It seems absolutely relentless ate the moment, and the pace seems to be gathering. The underlying reason is the high demand for housing land in Cambridge, and many of these pubs do sit on sizable plots in desirable locations. And their owners are looking to cash in on their development value.
CHRIS MANN: Aren’t there plenty of other pubs for people to use?
PAUL AINSWORTH: Well increasingly not. If you go back ten years, there were just over 100 pubs in Cambridge. Since 2003 we’ve lost 19 permanently. We’ve got another 8 which are currently closed, and in most cases there are planning applications to shut them and redevelop the site. So we’ve lost 25% of our pubs in a very short time. And so increasingly, where you used to be able to say, oh yes, there’s another pub down the road, the pub down the road is now shut.
CHRIS MANN: So this is a deliberate policy, you believe?
PAUL AINSWORTH: Well to say it’s a deliberate policy, certainly the pub companies and the breweries who own these pubs, as I say, are looking to cash in on their assets. And I think why there’s been such a flurry recently is because the City Council, to their credit, have realised that as the local planning authority, they need to do something about this. And they have commissioned a study from some consultants into Cambridge pubs, and their value to the community. And that’s likely to result in stronger policies to protect pubs. So I think people are trying to get in now, in advance of this policy coming into force.
CHRIS MANN: There is stiff opposition from residents, objecting to this happening. They actually would rather have a pub than have a business there, or flats.
PAUL AINSWORTH: Oh sure, yes. These are community assets. All of these pubs are people’s locals, and in many cases people have been going there for years, and they don’t want to lose them. And once a pub’s gone, it’s gone. It’s not going to come back. So we feel that the owners of these pubs, they’re not just taking on a property, they’re taking on something where there’s a responsibility goes with ownership, because they are integral parts of the local community.
CHRIS MANN: In the case of one of them, The Royal Standard, now from my memory, that hasn’t been a pub probably for five years?
PAUL AINSWORTH: That’s right. It’s been operating as a restaurant.
CHRIS MANN: Yes.
PAUL AINSWORTH: But during that time another two pubs close by, The Duke of Argyle and The Jubilee, have closed, which has left that neck of the woods .. and in both cases the pubs have been demolished .. has left that part of Cambridge very short of pubs. So in fact we, CAMRA, have put in a planning application to turn the use of the building back into a pub. Because we feel that it would make a very viable pub there. It’s a good location. And particularly if it was in the hands of a small brewery, or a free trader, we think it would be a little gold mine actually.
CHRIS MANN: So do you have somebody in mind?
PAUL AINSWORTH: We know of two small breweries who are very keen to establish a presence in Cambridge, and who would be very interested, if it came on the market. So with the planning application gone in, if the Council refuse it, and if the owners throw in the towel, then yes, there would be somebody wanting to come in and restore it as a pub. Certainly.
CHRIS MANN: Paul Ainsworth from CAMRA. Thank you very much indeed for joining me.