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Ministers vow to protect pubs

Words: Laura Edgar

Ministers have announced plans to change the law to provide further protection for pubs.

The aim of the plans is to stop valued community pubs being demolished or converted for a different purpose  through permitted development rights against the will of local people.

Community ministers Kris Hopkins and Stephen Williams explained that they want to bring in secondary legislation that will mean if a pub in England is listed as an Asset of Community Value (AVC), national permitted development rights will be temporarily removed. In the future, if a pub is listed as an AVC, a planning application will be required to change the building’s use or to demolish it.

Local people, the ministers continued, will then be in a position to comment while the local authority can make a decision based on its local plan, a neighbourhood plan if they have one, and national policy.

Community Pubs minister Hopkins said: “The great British pub is a national treasure, which is why we are determined to protect it. Aside from being part of the social and cultural fabric of our nation, pubs also provide thousands of jobs and boost the economy by £21 billion a year.

“A lot of hard work has been put in by communities up and down the land to protect their beloved local from sell-off and I am delighted this latest government action will strengthen their hand further. This change in the law will provide even greater protection for local pubs and give communities even more of a say in their preservation.

“But the planning system can only do so much; planning rules cannot keep pubs open which are not making money. Lower taxes, less regulation and a growing economy are the best way to support a thriving and diverse pub sector.”

The British Property Federation (BPF) has, however, expressed concern over the move, stating that AVC listed pubs are sold because they are no longer viable as businesses and that making developers apply for planning permission will add delays to “much needed development and regeneration”.

Ghislaine Halpenny, assistant director (planning and regeneration) at BPF, said: “While the ACV mechanism allows local people to have a say in the future of community assets, we feel that in this instance government has missed the point of permitted development rights. 

“The flexibility that comes with the permitted development rights means that buildings where the numbers may not stack up can be converted into another valuable asset for the community. The announcement seems to run contrary to this objective. Many pubs that are listed as ACVs are simply not making ends meet, so it is perhaps unhelpful to make it more difficult for developers to return them to use.”

On the other hand, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said it "welcomed" the announcement. Speaking to The Planner, Tim Page, CAMRA chief executive said: “We welcome the government’s announcement that they will extend planning protection to pubs listed as AVCs as a significant step in the right direction. We will be pressing ministers to fulfil their promise to enact this change before parliament dissolves for the general election."