The pleas from members of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group came after figures compiled by the Campaign for Real Ale and CGA Strategy showed the weekly pub closure rate had risen from 28 to 31.
The group’s chair, Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, said: “It is not right that pubs, so often the heart of a community, can be converted into supermarkets or offices without developers needing planning permission. It is very welcome that the Government has now accepted that any new betting shops need to get planning permission, but why the blind spot when it comes to all the fundamental changes that lead to the loss of a pub or the establishment of a new supermarket? Both should require planning permission and the right for communities to have a say.
“I have raised many times with communities and local government ministers about the clear lack of real protection for local services, including pubs. Their response is always ACVs, that local authorities should use Article 4 Directions and consider compulsory purchase. We keep going around in circles. They fail to address the fundamental and obvious point - that the permitted development rights are clearly absurd and indefensible and are often denying communities ANY say over many local assets and services. This is not something that anyone who claims to support community empowerment and localism can defend.
“Communities must be given a say in proposed changes to much-valued local facilities. Ministers need to wake up to the predatory purchasing of valued local pubs by Tesco, as well as indebted pubcos looking to offload pubs behind the backs of communities who use them. If ministers really value pubs as they claim, they must stop having a blind spot towards pubs and urgently look at changing the existing planning laws.”
Vice-Chair of the Save the Pub group, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, said: "Pubs are really important to local communities, but at the moment it is much too easy for them to be converted into other things like supermarkets without local people having any say. That isn't right, and localism means that any conversion or demolition of a pub must go through the planning process so people can object."
Tom Stainer, head of communications for CAMRA, urged those with concerns about pub closures to sign up to the group’s Pubs Matter campaign.
He added: “Popular and profitable pubs are being left vulnerable by gaps in English planning legislation as pubs are increasingly being targeted by those wishing to take advantage of the absence of proper planning control. It is utterly perverse that developers are able to demolish or convert a pub into a convenience store or many other uses without any requirement to apply for planning permission.
“A pub is an entirely different proposition to a convenience store, estate agent or funeral directors and the planning system needs updating to reflect this fact. It is wrong that communities are left powerless when a popular local pub is threatened with demolition or conversion into a Tesco store.”