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Traditional pub curbs youth excess


Traditional pubs could help reduce problem drinking among young people, according to new research.?

Tim Townshend, Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University, and Marion Roberts, University of Westminster, suggest the traditional pub can be a place for ‘restrained and responsible’ social interaction between young adults, in the current issue of Planning Theory & Practice.

Young adults and the decline of the urban English pub: issues for planning, brings together two factors that have pre-occupied the UK government for many years: the decline of the British pub and young people’s drinking.

They discuss whether the English planning system should in fact distinguish between pubs for the ‘public good’ and licensed premises associated with ‘social ills’.

“While recognising the adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption, going to pubs does reinforce social ties and networks,” explains Tim Townshend. “This lends support to arguments for their contribution to social sustainability and paradoxically, to health, or at least a healthier approach to alcohol.”

The UK government wants further controls to restrict high street bars, but is also concerned about the decline in the number of traditional pubs, which have fallen by nearly a quarter in the last two decades. Meanwhile, alcohol consumption among young adults remains a key policy concern.

While looking into local variations in youth drinking cultures in England, the academics found that young people reported drinking in a restrained and responsible manner in ‘traditional’ pubs.

Young adults in their study, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, reported having one or two drinks on a weekday evening or sometimes not drinking alcohol at all. This behaviour is in sharp contrast to heavy drinking at high street bars or at house parties.

In the paper they quote one young person as saying: “I’ve got one group of friends who I would go out clubbing with and they like to get completely wrecked… My other group of friends are more like me and like to go down the pub and have a glass of wine and stick to soft drinks after that. It depends who I am out with.”

The study explores the difficulties the English planning system faces in seeking to distinguish between different types of pubs. The ‘Use Class Order’ in the English planning system does not provide an adequate distinction between different types of drinking establishments.

The authors suggest a new use class established for traditional pubs where the majority of patrons are seated. The UK government is already providing special support to ‘community pubs’, through grants and the Localism Act 2011, which enables local communities to forestall the closure of facilities on the grounds that they are a community resource.

“In this study, young adults were prepared to travel to meet friends and that their pub going routines were rarely confined to their ‘local’,” says Tim Townshend. “This suggests that while the Localism Act may be effective in supporting well-organised community groups, it does not meet the needs of a younger, more mobile demographic.”

Article: Marion Roberts and Tim Townshend Planning Theory & Practice (2013): Young adults and the decline of the urban English pub: issues for planning, Planning Theory & Practice, DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2013.845683

published on: 20 November 2013