Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Cambridge MP Huppert Leads Commons’ Debate To Save Pubs And Independent Shops

Abdul Arain, the owner of Mill Road’s
Al-Amin grocery store signs Julian’s petition

MP Julian Huppert will call on Parliament today (Tuesday, July 10) to protect the nation’s pubs and independent shops, warning that 12 pubs a week are being lost across the country.

Julian will call for a change in the law to give councils, who want it, better planning controls to safeguard pubs and prevent giant supermarkets monopolising communities.

He will bring a 10 Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons telling Parliament that each pub brings in on average of £80,000 to a local economy and in Cambridge alone the pub trade employs 1,500 people, many of them young.

Nationally, 12,000 local shops closed in 2009, he will say, but the New Economics Foundation discovered twice the money is kept in a local community if people buy local, than if they buy from a chain.

His debate comes after he spent much of Saturday visiting independent traders and pubs in Cambridge gaining support for a petition backing his Bill. The petition can be found online at: http://cambridgelibdems.org.uk/en/petition/defend-local-pubs-and-independent-shops

And on Friday he visited The Flying Pig near Cambridge railway station where, despite its financial success, the landlord and Cambridge City Council cannot stop it being redeveloped for flats, although it remains open for now.

Tamsin Walker, leading the campaign
to save the Royal Standard pub, joins
Julian Huppert and Romsey
Councillor, Kilian Bourke to support the petition
Julian’s Bill has also gained the support of CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) and the cross-party Local Government Association, which represents all councils.

Jonathan Mail, head of public affairs at CAMRA said: “We’re pleased to see Julian taking a lead on this issue, and getting cross-party support for the cause. His proposed Bill would go a long way to protecting local pubs and the communities they serve.

“Cambridge City Council are at the forefront of efforts to deliver greater protection to community pubs and we hope that other councils follow their lead and that they get strong backing from central government."

Today Julian will tell Parliament: “The Bill I seek to introduce today would help local communities to protect their shops and pubs. It would tweak planning law – only slightly –to rebalance the playing field in their favour. Technically speaking, it would allow the use of locally determined use classes to separate local independent shops from chains, and supermarkets from other grocers, as well as new constraints on changing use away from pubs. And critically, it would be up to the local council if they wished to use this – every area is different, and no council would be forced to do this if it was not appropriate for their area.

“I certainly don’t claim that this will fix every problem faced by local shops and pubs. But we can take a stand, and hand power to local people to separate out independent shops from chains, supermarkets from grocers and pubs from estate agents.”

Julian will tell Parliament that Cambridge has some of the greatest pubs in the country but over the last 3 years over 20 have been lost.

“This is not simply some cold, fact of life which our constituents should have to accept,” he will say.

“The Flying Pig for example, is immensely popular and more and more profitable every year, especially now that it is a free house - and yet it is threatened with demolition, to be turned into flats.

“In my old ward of East Chesterton the Green Dragon is now the only trading pub.  The local Penny Ferry, Dog and Pheasant, and Haymakers are all boarded up, and local councillors struggle to find planning grounds to protect them.

“And rural pubs suffer similar threats – and when the only pub in a village closes, that is a huge blow for the residents there – and poses a drink driving risk.”

He also warned of the dangers of multi-national chains dominating the local economy.

“Our high streets become identikit clones of each other,” he will say. “We lose the variety that makes our towns and cities special and different from each other. And our shopping options become ever blander; more and more the range of options available diminishes, as we see the demise of the specialist, the different, the quirky.

“Some high streets have already succumbed, and could be anywhere in the country. Others fight on - Bridge Street and Mill Rd in Cambridge are good examples, and well worth visiting. But the traffic is one way. Independent shops turn into chains, but they rarely go back.

“Currently, planning law doesn’t allow for a discrimination between Abdul Arain’s Al-Amin grocer store, and the Sainsbury’s planned for the other side of the road. But residents know that they are a very different proposition.

“This is, appropriately, Independent Retailer Month. Let us as in Parliament do something to mark it. I urge all honourable Members to support this motion – and to shop locally, and sample their local pub.”