Whilst congratulations are due to campaigners against the demolition of the Portland Arms for persuading the owners/developers to change their current plans, the threat to this pub (or indeed any other pub in the City) has not gone away.
The problem is that pubs, even though in many cases they are a key community asset, have no protection at all in the planning system, under national or local Cambridge City planning policies. I would like to see local planning policies changed to give protection to pubs that do serve a significant community purpose, with a presumption that planning applications including their demolition or change or use won't be accepted in this case.
In the meantime, there are other protections that can be placed on a building. 'Listed' status does give significant protection from demolition. Requests for buildings to be added to the Statutory list are made to and decided by English Heritage, who assess the buildings according to set national criteria.
I understand that CAMRA have asked English Heritage for the Portland Arms to be listed, and this request is pending, but there has been a previous failed attempt to get the building listed.
Another form of protection could come from making the Portland Arms a 'Building of Local Interest' - a process the City Council controls. This would then become a possible reason to reject planning applications that do significantly affect the building.
This has already been requested for the Portland Arms, and I have supported those calls - I hope the Council can move forward on this proposal quickly, before any more pubs are lost.
This week a planning application was submitted to turn the Penny Ferry in Chesterton into five four bedroom houses, the Jubilee on Catharine Street has already seen a similar application for residential development - the Duke of Argyle pub site on Argyle Street having been sold and converted to housing with a significant profit for the developers last year. These won't be the last unless the planners can wake up to the problem.
In happier news - and a shameless commercial break - the Devonshire Arms is due to reopen in the next week or two. I had a sneak preview of the work in progress this week - I think they are doing a really good job, and it will be a great addition to the real ale circuit in the area as well as an asset for the community.
I should declare an interest - I am a shareholder in Individual Pubs, the company that will be running the Devonshire Arms - I'm also a member of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.