Mayor protects pubs in his London Plan

27 November 2017


  • Since 2001, the number of pubs in London has fallen by a quarter1
  • Mayor’s plan for the capital will urge boroughs to protect pubs and support proposals for new ones to be built
  • Agent of Change will ensure new residential developments near existing outlets are properly soundproofed, minimising the risk of noise complaints
  • Boroughs will have to ensure that any proposed development around pubs doesn’t negatively impact their viability

New measures to halt the shocking number of pubs closing their doors across the capital have been set out by the Mayor Sadiq Khan in his draft London Plan.

London has lost an average of 81 of its pubs a year since 2001 - and the Mayor is vowing to protect them.

The draft London Plan – the Mayor’s overall planning strategy for the capital, to be published this week – will push local authorities to recognise the heritage, economic, social and cultural value of pubs and ensure they are protected for local communities. It will also ask boroughs to back proposals for new pubs to be built in appropriate locations, to stimulate town centre regeneration.

Sadiq will introduce the Agent of Change principle in his draft London Plan. This means that developers building new residential properties near pubs will be responsible for ensuring they are adequately soundproofed and designed to reduce sound from nearby pubs, clubs and live music venues, instead of the crippling cost falling on the pubs and clubs.

Boroughs will have to refuse proposals from developers that have not clearly demonstrated how they will manage this noise impact.

The Mayor will lay down plans urging boroughs to resist applications to redevelop areas directly connected to public houses – such as beer gardens, function rooms or landlord accommodation – so that they retain their appeal to local people and visitors and remain viable businesses.

Sadiq Khan’s plans to protect London’s pubs follow shocking figures released earlier this year - which showed 1,220 pubs have been lost in the capital since 20012. In 2001, there were 4,835 pubs in London. By 2016, the total 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).

The decline of the number of pubs in the capital suggest they are coming under increasing threat over a range of issues, including development, rises in rents and business rates and conflicts with residents.

The Mayor’s draft London Plan gives unprecedented directions to safeguard London’s locals and allow boroughs to refuse and resist developments that threaten further closures.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Pubs across the capital are often at the heart of our communities or of historic value and should be protected by local authorities in order to protect the capital’s unique character. From historic watering holes to new pop-up breweries, nothing defines the diverse and historic character of the capital better than the Great British Pub.

“That’s why I’ve set out measures in my draft London Plan to protect pubs against redevelopment, ensure they can co-exist peacefully with nearby residential properties and ensure that councils across the capital recognise their importance to the city’s cultural fabric.”

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.

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.

Some, such as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead and The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping are tourist destinations in their own right – ingrained in the capital’s history and woven into its folklore.

Even famous fictional locals, such as Eastenders’ Queen Vic, the Nag’s Head in Only Fools and Horses or The Leaky Cauldron in the Harry Potter series highlight just how important they are to London’s character.

As well as being intrinsic to London’s culture, public houses are also a vital to the capital’s young workforce, providing the first taste of work for many young people, generating one in six of all news jobs among 18-24 year olds4.

Earlier this year, Sadiq Khan committed to working together with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to undertake an annual audit of public houses in the capital5, 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.

He appointed London’s first-ever Night Czar, Amy Lamé, to champion the capital’s night-time economy and to take action to protect pubs, night clubs, grassroots music venues and LGBT+ spaces in the city. Earlier this month, Amy published guidance6 for councils on how they can use the current London Plan to safeguard pubs and other night-time venues. This included guidance on Agent of Change

London’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé, said: “I fell in love with London’s pub culture when I moved to the capital over 20 years ago. Having campaigned for years to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, I understand the pivotal role pubs play in community life and how passionately Londoners feel about their local.

“I’m delighted that the Mayor has unveiled these important policies in his draft London Plan today. This, alongside his commitment to an annual audit of public houses in the capital, will be invaluable in our fight to protect pubs across the city.”

Chair of CAMRA’s North London branch, John Cryne: “CAMRA fully welcomes the Mayor’s initiative and we are pleased to get to a stage where pubs are valued in such an important planning policy. I just hope that local London boroughs take note and act accordingly to preserve what is left of London’s valuable public houses.”


London Pub facts

  • Five tube stations are named after pubs (Swiss Cottage, Royal Oak, Manor House, Angel and Elephant & Castle)
  • Maida Vale is named after a pub (the Heroes of Maida)
  • Other areas named after pubs include Fitzrovia (Fitzroy Tavern), Nag’s Head in Holloway, Baker’s Arms in Waltham Forest, New Cross in Lewisham, White Hart Lane in Tottenham.
  • According to tradition, Pimlico is named after Ben Pimlico, a publican “famous for his nut brown ale” according to Gifford, in his edition of Ben Jonson

Historical and heritage of London’s pubs

  • Ye Olde Watling is reputed to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1666 for workers on his St Paul’s Cathedral and constructed with wood from old ships timbers. He used one of upper rooms as his drawing office during the building of St Paul’s
  • Samuel Pepys watched The Great Fire of London from The Anchor pub on Bankside. Samuel Johnson used to drink at The Anchor regularly, as well as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street (which Mark Twain and Dickens also frequented)
  • Dick Turpin used to drink at The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead and at The Flask in Highgate, as did the Romantic Poets Byron, Shelley and Keats. The Spaniards also features in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Turpin’s pistols were said to hang over the bar
  • Gladstone frequented The Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich, while Charles II used to take his mistress Nell Gwynn for dinner at The Dove in Hammersmith
  • The Mayflower in Rotherhithe was the stopping point for the pilgrim fathers as they emigrated to America. The Mayflower (the boat) docked outside the pub, then called The Shippe, before it went via Plymouth to America
  • The Old Bank of England still has the original vaults belonging to the Bank of England hidden in its cellar which held gold bullion and also the Crown Jewels during the First World War
  • During the Second World War, The French House was a meeting place for the French Resistance, including Charles de Gaulle
  • Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in the Red Lion pub in Soho. Lenin used to drink at The Crown Tavern
  • The upstairs room of The Star Tavern in Belgravia is where the Great Train Robbers hatched their plan. Other patrons included Peter O’Toole and Diana Dors

Cultural heritage of London’s pubs

  • Dickens was a frequenter of many pubs in London including the Lamb and Flag on Conduit Street (which Dryden also frequented), The George and Vulture (mentioned in The Pickwick Papers), the One Tun (which inspired Bill Sykes’ pub in Oliver Twist); and The Grapes, which is now owned by Sir Ian McKellen
  • Turner sketched views of the Thames from the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping
  • Orwell drank in The Dog and Duck in Soho, as did John Constable and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The Newman House in Soho was the inspiration for the underclass pub in Orwell’s 1984
  • Dylan Thomas used to drink at The Fitzroy Tavern in Bloomsbury when he worked at the BBC (as did Orwell). TS Eliot and the 1930s literary set drank in the nearby Marquis of Granby on Rathbone Street, Soho
  • The Black Friar, by Blackfriars Bridge, was saved from demolition following a campaign led by the poet Sir John Betjeman


Notes to editors

1 According to data from inter-departmental business register (IDBR) and Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), compiled by GLA Economics (available here: Figures are based on estimates rounded to the nearest 5.


2 An interactive map using IDBR data, showing the declining numbers of pubs in the capital, is available to view here:

CAMRA’s data, listing each individual public house in London, can be viewed on this map:


3 According to the London Visitor Survey (London and Partners, 2016)


4 According to IDBR data


5 Press release: Shocking data reveals number of pubs in London fell by a quarter since 2001-


6 Press release: Amy Lamé publishes guidance to protect night-time economy and culture on her first anniversary as London’s first-ever Night Czar -


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