London Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to help halt the decline in the number of pubs in London, as he released new figures that reveal the number of locals in the capital have fallen by a quarter since 20011.
The shocking figures - which show 1,220 pubs have been lost in the last 15 years - are highlighted by an interactive map showing the net loss of public houses per London borough2. In 2001, there were 4,835 pubs in London. By 2016, this had fallen by 25 per cent to 3,615 – an average loss of 81 pubs per year.
Two London boroughs reported a loss of more than half of their pubs – Barking and Dagenham (a loss of 56 per cent) and Newham (52 per cent). Other badly-affected boroughs include Croydon (45 per cent), Waltham Forest (44 per cent), Hounslow (42 per cent) and Lewisham (41 per cent). Hackney, the only borough that did not report an overall loss - saw an increase of 3 per cent since 2001.
A recent survey of international visitors to London3 revealed 54 per cent visited a pub during their stay in the capital, underlining their great cultural importance to the city and their deep connection with English culture. Yet the decline of the number of pubs in the capital suggest they are coming under increasing threat over a range of issues, including rises in business rates, conflicts with residents and developers and the relaxation of permitted development rights in 2015 – which allows certain types of development to go ahead without planning permission.
This audit of London’s public houses is the first strand of the Mayor’s Cultural Infrastructure Plan for 2030 – which sets out to identify what is needed in order to sustain London’s future as a cultural capital. The Cultural Infrastructure Plan will take into account a wide range of cultural assets, from dance studios to theatres and artist studios to nightclubs, with a view to embedding culture into the forthcoming London Plan, the Mayor’s development strategy for the capital, ensuring that culture is planned in a similar way to other vital services, such as housing and transport.
As part of his commitment to the capital’s pubs, Sadiq has committed to working together with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to undertake an annual audit, so that the number of pubs in the capital can be tracked more closely, and efforts can be made to stem the flow of closures in the city.
The Mayor recognises that the Great British boozer has been a longstanding part of English heritage, and in the run up to St George’s Day, today stressed the important contribution they make to the capital’s culture.
The influence of pub culture can be found in everyday London life – from the five tube stations and the multitude of areas around the capital named after pubs, to the historic tales of iconic English characters who have frequented and been inspired by the many drinking establishments across the city.
As well as being intrinsic to London’s culture, public houses are also a vital economic driver, providing the first taste of work for many young people, generating one in six of all news jobs among 18-24 year olds. Although the number of pubs in the capital has dramatically fallen, employment in pubs has grown by 3,700 to reach 46,300 in 2016, an increase of 8.7 per cent4.
London’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé today launched a public consultation on ‘Culture and the night time economy’5, which contains guidance on how boroughs across the city can use the current London Plan to protect public houses from closure. This encourages boroughs to implement the Agent of Change principle – putting the onus on developers that build properties next to pubs to pay for soundproofing, ensuring residents and revellers can co-exist peacefully.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said, “The Great British Pub is at the heart of the capital’s culture. From traditional workingmen’s clubs to cutting-edge micro-breweries, London’s locals are as diverse and eclectic as the people who frequent them.
“That’s why I’m shocked at the rate of closure highlighted by these statistics, and why we have partnered with CAMRA to ensure we can track the number of pubs open in the capital and redouble our efforts to stem the rate of closures.
“From the outset of my Mayoralty, I’ve made safeguarding and growing the night-time economy a key priority and this simply isn’t possible without a thriving pub scene. Together with my Night Czar, Amy Lamé, we will do all we can to protect pubs across London.”
Night Czar, Amy Lamé said, “Every pub closed in London is a blow to a local community, and these statistics show that London’s locals are under real threat from a wide range of issues – from development to rising business rates. We all need to love our pubs, and not take them for granted.
“As an American who came to live in London over 20 years ago, I immediately fell in love with London’s pub culture. Running a pub of my own, I understand just how important they are to the life and spirit of a community.
“If you’re worried about your local watering hole, then please get in touch with CAMRA. We’re working closely alongside them to help safeguard the future of the capital’s pubs.”
Greater London CAMRA Regional Director, Geoff Strawbridge, said, 'Pubs play a vital part in many people’s lives, providing a place to meet and socialise and feel part of a community. Yet London pubs are under enormous threats, notably from increasing business rates, high alcohol duties and property speculation. CAMRA has welcomed the opportunity to work with the Mayor in monitoring pub closures in the capital, and hopes this initiative will continue to draw attention to the plight of London pubs.'
Today, the Mayor shone a spotlight on The China Hall in Rotherhithe, a pub boasting a history of nearly 300 years, to highlight the threat that pubs across the capital are facing.
The landlords, Michael and Linda Norris have run the pub for 34 years, and their family have links to the area going back generations. In 2013, the pub was sold to developers, who recently offered them a new 10-year lease for double what they currently pay. If Michael and Linda are unable to meet this extra cost, they face losing both their home and livelihood, and the community will lose a much-loved pub.
Michael and Linda Norris, landlords of The China Hall, Rotherhithe, said, “The future of The China Hall hangs in the balance after the site was sold to a developer a few years ago. We’ve both lived in Rotherhithe all our lives. Our family and friends are all here, and we have links to the area going back generations.
“We’ve had punters who’ve been drinking here for decades and we’re at the centre of community life. If the lease of the pub isn’t renewed we would likely have to leave the area due to rising rents. It’s great that the Mayor is recognising the cultural importance of pubs for local communities, and the measures he has proposed make it harder for situations like ours to occur in the future.”
Khan recently highlighted the issues being faced by grassroots music venues and cinemas as a result of rising business rates5, calling on the Valuation Office Agency to review its valuation policy, as the way business rates are calculated puts grassroots music venues at high risk as they need large buildings in town and city centre locations – where property prices have particularly soared.