Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Council welcomes move to give communities more say on pubs after lobbying government

Campaigning council bosses have welcomed news that the government is looking to give communities more say before important village pubs are converted into offices and shops.

Just over a year ago councillors began to press the government for change to national planning laws after The Pear Tree pub in Hildersham – which had been listed by local people as an Asset of Community Value – was lawfully closed and converted to a furniture shop without the need to seek further planning permission or consult local people.

In a written statement, Kris Hopkins, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said that “the passion for community pubs as demonstrated by the significant numbers listed as Assets of Community Value highlights the need to enable local communities to consider planning applications for the change of use of a pub of particular value.”

Under current planning legislation a pub can be lawfully converted to a shop without further planning permission. The change can be made under what is known as permitted development rights.

As councillors had campaigned for, the Minister has pledged to bring forward legislation so that listing a pub as an Asset of Community Value will trigger the removal of the national permitted development rights for change of use or demolition of those pubs which local groups have identified as providing the most community benefit.

Councillors had campaigned for the change as the Community Right to Bid, part of the government’s Localism Act, 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 or demolition allowed by national planning rules is carried out.

Before the government’s announcement the Council had been consulting local communities on the possibility of using an Article 4 Direction – a planning power which could mean pubs would no longer be able to be converted or demolished without the need to submit a new planning application – and are calling on local people to still have their say.

The consultation is considering whether an Article 4 Direction should be implemented to stop specific pubs being demolished without planning consent or their use changed without the need to submit a planning application.

Cllr Nick Wright, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “I am delighted that our campaigning on this issue has been listened to by the government as pubs are at the heart of many rural communities and we do not want to see them lost without local people having their say. Although the government has made a move in the right direction since we launched our consultation, it is still absolutely vital that everyone takes this opportunity to make their views known. As the government’s move has only just been announced, there is still much more detail to be confirmed. We will of course be keeping a close eye on this and asking them to clarify their plans to make sure they are giving our communities and vital village pubs the right level of safeguarding.”

To have your say visit www.scambs.gov.uk/content/consultation-greater-protection-public-houses. The consultation closes at midnight on Monday 23 February.

Government written statement:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coalition-ministers-change-the-law-to-protect-the-great-british-pub