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Save the Pub Group fails to get change in planning law through Parliament

By Liam Coleman , 15-Dec-2016
Last updated on 15-Dec-2016 at 11:23 GMT2016-12-15T11:23:40Z

Save the Pub amendment to Neighbourhood Planning Bill fails

The Save The Pub Group's bid to scrap permitted development rights for pubs has failed to make it through Parliament.

The cross-party amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill was tabled by Group chair Greg Mulholland, vice-chairs Louise Haigh and Caroline Lucas, and also Antoinette Sandbach and Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods. 

Mulholland told Parliament: "The new clause is about the simple principle that if someone wants to demolish a pub or to convert it into anything, the proposal should go through the planning process to allow residents to have their say on whether they oppose or support it. That is all we are talking about. This simple, common-sense change would mean that — as is the case, strangely, for theatres and launderettes — proposals for pubs would have to go through the planning process."

The amendment was generally met with opposition from most Government MPs with Conservative Mike Wood saying: "Unfortunately, the new clause smacks a little of, 'something needs to be done. This is something, so it must be done.' What we really need is thriving pubs, but the new clause would do little to support them. Removing permitted development rights for change of use would put many more pubs at risk because those rights are a genuine asset that pubs can borrow against."

The amendment was ultimately defeated with 161 MPs voting in favour of the changes, but 274 voting against.

'A scandal'

The Save The Pub Group afterwards issued a statement thanking and praising the MPs that had backed the amendment, which included four Conservatives rebelling against their party — Sir Peter Bottomley, Sir Greg Knight, Dr Tania Mathias, and Philip Hollobone.

Group chair Mulholland said: "Thanks to all pro-pub MPs who backed the very simple change of removing permitted development rights on pubs, which is the only realistic way to stop the predatory purchasing of pubs. Thanks especially to the Conservative MPs who had the courage to rebel and stand up for pubs and localism. 

"It is a scandal that profitable, wanted pubs are being targeted and closed and converted to supermarkets without the local community having any say and it is disappointing that ministers continue to ignore this."

BBPA opposition

The BBPA had previously campaigned against the amendment with their chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, saying: "We are urging MPs not to support this proposal, as there are already adequate safeguards, through the community right-to-bid legislation, which offers protection against pubs being converted to other uses against the wishes of the local community.

"If a pub is no longer viable and is boarded up while awaiting planning permission to change its use, no one benefits – and this would be the likely consequence of this proposal.

"It would also mean planning permission would have to be gained for pub improvements, including alterations to the property, such as new fences, signage, internal walls, kitchen developments, and bar extensions. This would add to costs and red tape for the sector,  which we must remember also includes many individual licensee pub owners, for whom the premises can be their only significant asset."

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