Pub Protection Pays Off In Wandsworth

Council "pioneered the use of article 4 directions to save neighbourhood pubs"

The Cat's Back on the Putney & Wandsworth border

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) pubs in Wandsworth are faring far better than those in neighbouring boroughs.

Wandsworth has lost 15 pubs since 2001 – a fall of ten per cent. However, this compares favourably with neighbouring boroughs like Lambeth which has seen a fall of 24 per cent (45 pubs lost) and Merton where the drop is 40 per cent (30 pubs).

In 2016 Wandsworth was the first local authority in the UK to bring in measures to protect its most important pubs from redevelopment. Under ‘Article 4 Directions’ changes to borough pubs have to go through the planning process, rather than be automatically allowed under ‘permitted development’ rules. This means they can no longer be converted into other venues, such as mini-supermarkets, without the need for planning permission.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) this week said the council’s use of Article 4 Directions ‘gives out a very clear message’ to potential developers that turning pubs into shops or homes is unlikely to be permitted, and that the regeneration of the borough was likely to lead to more demand for pubs in the future, not less.

Geoff Strawbridge, regional director of Greater London CAMRA, said: "Wandsworth has given out a very clear message that developers are going to have to find very good reasons for change of use against the council’s strong criteria. The policy is upping the chances of the borough keeping its pubs open.”

Wandsworth’s pioneering policy led the way nationally, with a change to permitted development rules introduced across the UK in 2017.

Councillors can refuse applications to convert or demolish 120 protected pubs. Most recently, in August the owners of The Queens Arms, a Victorian-era pub in St Philip Street, Battersea that had been empty for two years, were given permission to extend and reopen it. A previous application to turn it into a shop was withdrawn because the building was subject to an Article 4 direction.

Other successes include The Stag in Westbridge Road, Battersea. It was due to be demolished, but local residents rose to the challenge and successfully lobbied the council to protect the building by making it an Asset of Community Value in May 2017, in advance of the Article 4 Direction coming into force in August 2017. These actions saved it from the bulldozers.

The ONS report shows that across the UK nearly a quarter of pubs have closed in the last ten years – with small community pubs especially badly hit.

How Wandsworth compares to neighbouring boroughs:

Borough Pubs lost since 2001 Percentage fall Jobs provided




2,000 (up 33.3%)




600 (down 25%)

Kensington & Chelsea



1.250 (no change




900 (no change)




2,000 (up 60%)

Hammersmith & Fulham



1,250 (down 16.7%)




1,500 (no change)




6,000 (up 20%)

Mr Strawbridge added: “The statistics show that the numbers are holding up in comparison with other boroughs, and Wandsworth’s growing affluence is doing a lot of good for its pubs. The council needs to remain vigilant with incoming applications and keep up the good work.”

In all, 120 Wandsworth pubs have been protected by Article 4 Directions. They include The Alma, The Ship and The Cat’s Back in Wandsworth, The Bricklayers Arms and Arab Boy in Putney, The Plough, Falcon and The Beehive in Battersea, The Selkirk, Trafalgar Arms and Wheatsheaf in Tooting and the Bedford, Regent and Prince of Wales in Balham.

Former White Lion pub Putney ( By Edwardx )

Some pubs that are currently closed have also been given protection, including the White Lion in Putney High Street and The Brewery Tap in Wandsworth High Street. It’s hoped this will give an added incentive to the owners to bring them back into use.

Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook

Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said: “Wandsworth has some of the best protected pubs in the country and we will carefully scrutinise all planning applications to ensure we minimise the risk of losing these valuable community assets.

“We pioneered the use of article 4 directions to save neighbourhood pubs, and we are determined to do all we can to help our pubs flourish. Pubs are at the heart of the communities they serve and they provide local jobs and a place where people can come together.”

Find out more at

December 7, 2018