Julian Huppert MP, member of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, introduced the bill under the ’10 Minute Rule Motion’ yesterday, as part of a new Private Members Bill.
The law would give local authorities the right to require planning permission for anyone wanting to demolish or change the use of a pub. It would make it much harder for pub chains to sell local pubs to property developers or retail giants.
Parliament agreed for the Bill to be read for a second time on Friday 26 October.
Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, told the House: “The Bill that I seek to introduce today would help local communities to protect their shops and pubs. It would tweak planning law—only slightly—to rebalance the playing field in their favour.
"Technically, it would allow the use of locally determined use classes to separate local independent shops from chains, and supermarkets from other grocers, as well as placing new constraints on changing use away from pubs. Critically, it would be up to the local council to use the measure if it wished to do so. Every area is different, and no council would be forced to use it if it was not appropriate for its area.”
It has received backing from pro-pubs MP Greg Mulholland, chair of Save the Pub Group, and the Campaign for Real Ale.
However the proposed legislation has attracted criticism from pub property agent Neil Morgan, director and head of public houses at Christie+Co. He urged the group to “better employ their energies” to focus on below-cost sales of alcohol in supermarkets.
Morgan said: “No sane pub company is going to close a profitable and popular pub. And if they were to dispose of such pubs, there would be a queue of entrepreneurs and operators keen to take on the businesses as going concerns. The sale of a pub for alternative use is simply a symptom of a community having deserted their local, and not of profiteering on the part of the pubco. If communities love their pub, they would use it and, therefore, its sale for alternative use wouldn’t ever be a consideration.
“Perhaps Mr Mulholland and his colleagues should better employ their energies to propose a Bill to outlaw the below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets, and rid this country’s parkland of the sight of empty beer cans beneath just about every park bench. Such a Bill could bring the supermarkets onto a level playing-field with the on-trade.”