Community pub use class would 'further complicate' the planning system, warn agents

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Community pubs, Public house

Agent Kevin Marsh: 'Even separating pubs and restaurants in terms of planning can create challenges'
Agent Kevin Marsh: 'Even separating pubs and restaurants in terms of planning can create challenges'
A separate use class for community pubs would present a “further complication” of planning legislation, leading property agents have warned, after a new Bill calling for the change was proposed in Parliament last week.

The National Planning Policy Framework (Community Involvement) Bill, brought forward by All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group chairman Greg Mulholland MP in the House of Commons, proposes for community pubs to be listed in their own use class to give local communities a greater role in planning decisions.

It has attracted cross-party support, with backing from 11 MPs representing the three main parties.

One of the key measures outlined in the Bill is to close planning loopholes that allow pubs and other local facilities to be converted into retail use without the need for planning permission.

It also calls for a “genuine” community right to buy for assets of community value.

Mulholland said: “It is a national scandal that we are losing valued community pubs up and down the country, without local communities being able to have any say, due to the weakness of the planning system.

“With a separate use class order for pubs, not only would any attempt to change the use of a pub have to
go through the planning process, but it also would allow specific rate relief for pubs, to properly acknowledge their community value.”

'Contentious'

However, Kevin Marsh, head of licensed leisure at Savills, said pubs and restaurants already fall into different classes of the planning system and creating another would be problematic.

“It will require a further definition as to what constitutes a community pub against a non-community pub, which is likely to be highly subjective and therefore contentious in many situations,” he said.

“Even separating pubs and restaurants in terms of planning can create challenges, let alone adding more levels and further complicating matters.”

Maintain flexibility

Colliers International planning director Adam Pyrke added: “It is important to maintain flexibility in the use of our town centre retail property as many centres continue to struggle with the combined impacts of the recession and the changes in shopping patterns arising from the growth of the internet.

"The current ability to move from public house to shop is a valuable tool helping to regenerate centres where in the future flexibility and speed of response will be key to capturing tenant interest.”

Last week, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) passed a motion​, proposed by the Planning Advisory Group, instructing its national executive to “mount a hard-hitting campaign to secure the closure of planning loopholes that allow unnecessary loss of pubs”.

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