Thursday, 23 January 2014

Councillors Back Call To Lobby Government For Greater Pub Protection

Councillors have put their weight behind a plan to lobby Government for changes to national legislation that would give pubs greater protection from development.

Councillors at a Full Council meeting today (Thursday 23 January) supported a call for pubs not to be allowed free reign to convert into shops or offices without consultation if the community has successfully listed them as ‘assets of community value’.

A motion put forward by Cllr Roger Hickford follows the recent lawful conversion of the closed Pear Tree Pub in Hildersham into a furniture shop, which the local parish council had successfully listed as an asset last year.

Cllr Hickford’s motion, which was supported by councillors demanded that “Central Government remove the permitted development rights for change of use of pubs if they have been successfully registered as community assets.”

This change would mean a pub wanting to change use would need to apply for planning permission and residents would be given the chance to make their views known.

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 agreed motion confirms proposals earlier this month to lobby the Government on the issue after frustration the Council did not have sufficient power to stop the change at The Pear Tree, which had already been carried out.

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

The motion also called on the Council to lobby local MPs, the Local Government Association and other relevant bodies to support the proposed change.

Cllr Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I am really pleased councillors are united in supporting this motion as we can now begin making our case to Government. I sympathise with people in Hildersham who wanted their local pub to be retained and we will fight for a change which will at least give communities the chance to have a say.”

Cllr Roger Hickford, local member for Hildersham on South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “The pub closure was a real blow my villagers in Hildersham and the motion councillors have agreed will see us collectively stand up for the communities we all represent. At the moment this could happen to any pub, even if they have been viable and thriving businesses. The Government’s community asset legislation is a fantastic piece of work to support communities if the final pub in a village is to be sold but it simply does not do enough to help people if the use of an asset is being changed as happened at the Pear Tree.”