MPs on the Save the Pub Group have urged the Government to include new planning laws making it harder to demolish pubs in the Decentralism and Localism Bill.
The call follows the failure of the Protection of Local Services (Planning) Bill — a private members' bill introduced last June by Nigel Adams MP with the backing of the Save the Pub Group and other organisations.
Adams' bill had sought to close the loophole on planning law that allows community assets, such as pubs, to be demolished without planning permission and without the community having a say. It also wanted to close the loophole allowing change of use — for example a pub becoming a betting shop — without planning permission.
The Bill was due to be debated on Friday 21 January but there was insufficient time, so it fell. Adams has now met with the Department for Communities and Local Government to discuss how it might be incorporated in to the Localism Bill.
Fitting the agenda
The outcome was not unexpected with Adams putting forward the idea of inclusion in the Localism Bill as a possible way forward at a meeting back in November last year.
Adams believes the policy plans "tick a lot of boxes" on the Coalition agenda in terms of giving power back to the people, the Big Society and because it is light touch and would not add to costs for local authorities.
Local authorities would be able to opt in to the bill in much the same way as they can with the Sustainable Communities Act. "Ministers have made very encouraging noises," said Adams in November.
Save the Pub Group chair Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP, has written to community pubs minister Bob Neill about the need for greater protection for pubs in planning law.
"I am pleased that the Government is considering including these measures within the Decentralisation & Localism Bill," he said.
"This would be a significant step forward in safeguarding the future of local pubs, which are being closed and demolished even when they are profitable and wanted by the local community they serve. That is appalling and must be stopped.
"As it stands, the Localism Bill would not close the disgraceful loophole in the planning system whereby freestanding pubs can be demolished or changed to certain other functions without planning permission and therefore without any consideration to the views of local people.
"The Save the Pub Group also believe that planning law must be changed to allow for all communities facing the loss of a local pub the chance to save it and all it would take to do this is a mandatory delay to allow for viable and wanted pubs to be saved.
"If the Government is serious about giving local communities power over their local services, it should seriously consider this."