MPs from the parliamentary Save the Pub group have criticised government for opposing a simple change in planning laws that would have increased protection for pubs by requiring planning permission before they could be converted into supermarkets, offices or be demolished.
Permitted development rights allow pubs to be turned into supermarkets without needing planning permission. This has led to predatory purchasing of pubs by supermarkets- hence the scandal of profitable, wanted pubs being turned into Tesco stores without communities getting a say.
New Clause 16 for the Infrastructure Bill was tabled by MPs Charlotte Leslie, Greg Mulholland, Grahame Morris and Caroline Lucas and would have removed the permitted developments and given local authorities and local communities a say before a local pub is turned into a Tesco.
With 38 MPs adding their name to NC16 in just two days, rattled government ministers brought forward a concession; that if a pub in England managed to get successfully listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), permitted development rights on that pub would be removed.
At 7.30pm last night, NC16 was voted down 293 votes to 245.
MPs and campaigners responded by calling the concession a “modest but welcome step forward”, also saying that while it was welcome to have this limited step in the right direction, it could and should have been done more simply quickly.
The Save the Pub group are now pressing ministers for details on how exactly this will be implemented and when before the end of March, with DCLG officials having told CAMRA this change would require primary legislation.
Charlotte Leslie MP, who tabled the amendment, said:
“It is deeply disappointing that the Government did not do the simple, easy thing and put pubs on the same footing as launderettes and nightclubs. But it’s not completely doom-and-gloom. The Government have moved in the right direction, and since they hasn’t done it the easy way, we’ll have to do it the harder way and get every community pub in the country to get ‘Asset of Community Value’ status. Yes it’s bureaucratic, yes it could have been done much more simply, but let’s work with what we’ve got to protect our pubs.”
Greg Mulholland MP, chair of the parliamentary Save the Pub group, said:
“Communities, CAMRA members and councillors up and down the country will be dismayed and astonished at the fact that a majority of MPs voted against local people having any say when their local pub is facing conversion or demolition.
“All the MPs who voted against this can explain themselves to their constituents when they are faced with a supermarket taking over a pub and they can tell people that they voted for their constituents to continue to have no right to object.
“Whilst I welcome a modest step forward in strengthening the tokenistic asset of community value scheme that has so far save only a handful of pubs, the Department for Communities and Local Government are still passing the buck and heaping unnecessary bureaucracy and cost onto overstretched local authorities. Their argument against the simple change proposed was neither credible nor honest and the fact it that the vast majority of pubs will still be vulnerable to predatory takeover without any right to object. Yesterday’s vote has shown that DCLG value theatres, launderettes and nightclubs more than pubs, which says it all. The Save the Pub Group will continue to work with CAMRA and others for the simple, commonsensical change of giving pubs the same status as those amenities, so that people get the right to comment before a change of use or demolition. No truly pro pub MP or Government can oppose that”.
Grahame Morris MP added:
“This would have been a simple change to give communities a say and I am amazed that government ministers and MPs opposed giving their communities that say! The apparent concession will only benefit just over 1% of pubs, and with the overwhelming majority of pubs still without adequate protection from predatory supermarkets, the campaign goes on.”
Caroline Lucas MP said:
“Pubs are at the heart of our communities and play a vital role in our local economies – so it’s absolutely right that communities have a say in what happens to them. The vote against that was a vote against common sense and, frankly, democratic values. The campaign to protect our local pubs will certainly continue.”