Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Council To Lobby Government To Give Public Houses Greater Protection

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert
South Cambridgeshire District Council leaders are to lobby the government for changes to national legislation which could give pubs greater protection from development.

The call follows the recent lawful conversion of the closed Pear Tree Pub in Hildersham into a furniture shop, even though it had been successfully listed by the local community as an ‘asset of community value’ last year.

Following a meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee today (Wednesday 8 January), the Leader of the Council has asked for a report to be presented to the planning policy and localism portfolio holder to try and strengthen government legislation aimed at protecting important village assets.

Assets of Community Value Regulation 2012, which was part of the government’s localism bill, currently gives communities up to six months to table a bid for a listed asset if they are put up for sale. However, it offers no protection if a change of use allowed by national planning rules is carried out.

The Council will be asking for the government to enable local communities to have more of a say when to ensure listed assets can be retained in rural villages – one of the aims of the government’s Right to Bid scheme.

Nationally, the number of pubs is declining and the Council’s call for action follows the Campaign for Real Ale’s plea to government for change of planning policy. Under current planning legislation a pub can be lawfully converted to a shop without further planning permission.

Cllr Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I sympathise with people in Hildersham who want their local pub to be retained as at the moment national planning policy and the government’s community right to bid legislation are not operating hand-in-hand. The Pear Tree has highlighted the need for a change by the government so assets like pubs, which are at the heart of communities, cannot be changed with such ease. No one wants a building to sit empty if a business isn’t viable, but if a community has highlighted an asset such as a pub as being vital to them, the national planning rules should provide more protection. We need to press home the need for communities to have more say by speaking to ministers, local MPs and the Local Government Association.”

Local Bar Hill Parish Councillor Andy Pellew, said "It's important that local pubs are protected - the Fox in Bar Hill is an important local amenity and it would be a great shame for the village to lose this and, while there are no plans, we cannot be assured of what the future holds. This is why I support our communities right to bid, and for new laws to protect pubs in villages such as ours. Protection for Public Houses like this, as championed by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, is absolutely vital in ensuring that villages like ours don't turn into just places where people only sleep - forcing them to live, work, and play elsewhere. The fox is a vital part in the jigsaw that is Bar Hill and I hope it remains part of our village for a very very long time to come."