New government proposals could indirectly curb the trend of disused pubs being converted into convenience stores by the multiples.
Business secretary Vince Cable yesterday announced plans for an independent adjudicator to address unfair practices in the industry. The move is aimed at helping struggling landlords to keep their pubs alive.
Cable also proposed a new statutory code to look at the relationship between large pub companies and publicans, which will be enforced by the adjudicator. This new code would ensure fair practices for a number of issues including rents and the prices publicans pay for beer.
“I hope these measures mean publicans are given a fairer chance at running their pub, which in turn will help them grow their businesses instead of losing them,” he said.
Since January 2010 Tesco alone has converted at least 130 disused pubs into c-stores, according to Campaign for Real Ale research. A number of independent retailers have cited the trend as one of the biggest threats to their business.
If the measures have the desired effect, it would reduce the availability of disused pubs, which retailers are able to convert to c-stores without planning permission.
Mark Canniford, a Weston-super-Mare Spar retailer, said: “I welcome the idea that the government sees the need for something to be done. But we have had several changes in planning law over the last few years, and nothing has been done to stop the expansion of the multiples.
“If these measures help, then great. But I don’t think the government has the courage to take on Tesco.”
Patrick Moon of Spar Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, said: “Pubs are converting to convenience stores everywhere you look in Sheffield. It’s over-saturating the market.”