Saturday’s protest in Abingdon against Tesco turning the former Ox pub into a Tesco Direct as reported in the Oxford Mail yesterday and the Abingdon Blog seemed to go well, although unfortunately I was unable to attend as I was still working as a volunteer at the Great British Beer Festival.
An e-petition has now been set up by recently elected Abingdon town councillor Iain Littlejohn asking the government to pass laws allowing local councils to have some power to prevent pubs and similar properties from changing use. Current laws mean the town and district councils are powerless to do anything to prevent a pub being turned into a shop.
Please go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/4922 to sign it. I have signed e-petitions before and they do get looked at and replied to by the relevant minister and if more than 100,000 people sign, it will get debated in the house of commons.
The full wording is:
Give town councils the power to use planning process to protect the diversity and individual character of town centres. Currently multiple retailers are able to set up in high streets regardless of the impact on independent retailers. Planning authorities are not currently able to prevent this happening and as such many towns centres are becoming clone towns. Similarly many pubs are being converted to convenience stores owned by multiple retailers with little consideration of their long term impact on the community. Specifically we would like to see: 1. Town councils gain right to designate their town centre for diversity protection 2. Impact on the character of the town to become a legitimate reason for rejecting an application in towns designated for diversity protection 3. All retailers wishing to locate in designated towns required to submit planning application 4. Move from public house to other form of retail to be regarded as a change of use
It may be too late to save The Ox and The Fitzharris, but signing the petition could prevent the same thing happening to other pubs elsewhere.