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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Lords vote to protect pubs

Words: Laura Edgar
Lords support pubs

The House of Lords has voted to amend the Neighbourhood Planning Bill so it removes permitted development rights relating to the change of use or demolition of pubs.

During committee stage for the bill, the Lords spent time debating the same issue, but an amendment seeking to ensure comunities had a say over what happened to pubs was withdrawn.

The session, held on 28 February, followed a tight vote in the House of Lords last week in the first report stage session, in which the house sought to clarify whether or not the government plans to restrict the capacity of local authorities to put into force relevant conditions.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab) tabled amendment 35, which he said is “simple in its effect”.

It sought to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to provide further protection for our pubs.

The amendment states: “The secretary of state must exercise the powers conferred by sections 59, 60, 61, 74 and 333(7) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to remove permitted development rights relating to the change of use or demolition of “drinking establishments”.

Permitted development rights allow the change of use of pubs, or their demolition, without going through the planning process. “The effect is that the people in the local community are prevented from having a say over their local pub,” Kennedy said.

He referred to the asset of community value scheme, which was introduced under the Coalition government. While it has led to the removal of permitted development rights for listed pubs, there are some unintended consequences with the scheme, Kennedy said, such as the cost placed on local authorities and the community.

The amendment “will lead to fewer pubs needing to be registered under the scheme,” he explained.

“It will put them on a level footing with other businesses so that a developer, looking to convert a pub for whatever reason, would have to go through the normal planning application process. […] My amendment gives the local community a proper say in the sort of development it wants in its area and will stop local assets being lost for ever with local people having no say.”

Lord Scriven (LD) said he supported the “thrust” of what Kennedy said, as did Lord Swinfen (Con). Lord Shipley (LD) said the change is “simply a minor amendment”.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con), the parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Communities and Local Government and Wales Office, noted that the current arrangements "already provide protections for pubs that are valued by the community”, with permitted development rights removed from assets of community value.

Bourne said that while he and the government recognised the intent of amendment 35 and a number of supporting amendments, “we cannot support them as such”.

“I believe that there is scope for improvement in the assets of community value area. I am pleased therefore to be able to offer - as an alternative to pushing this to a vote - that the government will undertake an open and transparent review of the current arrangements in respect of assets of community value and the planning regime for pubs, including looking at permitted development rights," Bourne said.

He asked Kennedy to withdraw his amendment. Instead, Kennedy decided to put it to a vote.

Amendment 35 was agreed, 278 to 188.

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) chairman, Colin Valentine, said: "Pubs play a huge community role in villages, towns and high streets across the country yet can be lost overnight without the public having a say. We are delighted that Peers have chosen to support this amendment and we hope that the Government will respond to the will of communities across the country.”

Amendments 41, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 50A, 50B 50C, 51, 52, 53, ,54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61A, 62, 63, 64, 68, 70,72, 73, 74, 76 and 77 were agreed.

Amendments 36, 39, 40, 59, 60, 66, 67, 71 and 75 were not moved.

Amendments 38, 38A, 38B and 65 were withdrawn.

Amendments 37, 44, 46, 61 and 69 were withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill will now go through third reading before returning to the House of Commons, where MPs will vote on the bill.

The full transcript of the second report stage in the House of Lords can be found here.

An updated version of the bill can be found here.

Image credit | iStock