A total of 245 MPs voted for new clause 16 to the Infrastructure Bill – tabled by Save the Pub Group MPs - which would have required planning consent before a pub could be changed to retail or housing use or knocked down – versus 293 against.
Yesterday the Government unveiled its own bid to tighten planning regulations surrounding pub conversions, announcing a pub listed as an asset of community value could not be converted or demolished without planning permission.
Speaking during the debate, the chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, Greg Mulholland, questioned the validity of the Government’s plans, suggesting it could not be introduced as secondary legislation, as ministers have proposed.
He said: “New clause 16 is a much better solution. The solution the Government has proposed has more costs, much more bureaucracy, would take longer and is considerably less effective.
“None of us want more red tape. But if red tape is acceptable for nightclubs, theatres and laundrettes then to not support this today sends a clear message not only that you don’t support local pubs but that you think local people shouldn’t have a say.”
However, Andrew Griffiths, chair of the Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “We all want to see pubs thrive. What the minister has set out today means that if 21 people in their community want to protect their pub they can do and they can afford it protection under planning law.
“If a pub cannot get 21 people to support it then it is not financially viable. We do not need more red tape.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said she was pleased MPs did not support the proposal, adding that the Government's bid to tighten planning regulations for ACV-listed pubs would also be "an additional burden".
“We already have 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, and can also give local people the right to buy the premises," she said.
“If a pub is no longer viable and is boarded up while awaiting planning permission to change its use, no one benefits – but this would have been the likely consequence of this proposal. This would blight a local neighbourhood, attract squatting and reduce the value of the building to its owners. These owners are not just pub companies - they are just as likely to be independent small businesses.
“However, changes to secondary legislation that would mean pubs that are Assets of Community Value will in future need planning permission to change use, would also be an additional burden which other sectors would not face. It would be hard for small independent pubs who find small community premises difficult to sell.”
Greg Mulholland said: "Communities, CAMRA members and councillors up and down the country will be dismayed and astonished at the fact that a majority of MPs voted against local people having any say when their local pub is facing conversion or demolition.
"All the MPs who voted against this can explain themselves to their constituents when they are faced with a supermarket taking over a pub and they can tell people that they voted for their constituents to continue to have no right to object.
"Whilst I welcome a modest step forward in strengthening the tokenistic asset of community value scheme that has so far save only a handful of pubs, the Department for Communities and Local Government are still passing the buck and heaping unnecessary bureaucracy and cost onto overstretched local authorities. Their argument against the simple change proposed was neither credible nor honest and the fact it that the vast majority of pubs will still be vulnerable to predatory takeover without any right to object.
"Yesterday's vote has shown that DCLG value theatres, launderettes and nightclubs more than pubs,which says it all. The Save the Pub Group will continue to work with CAMRA and others for the simple, commonsensical change of giving pubs the same status as those amenities, so that people get the right to comment before a change of use or demolition. No truly pro pub MP or Government can oppose that".
Charlotte Leslie MP, proposer of NC16 and member of the Save the Pub Group said: "It is deeply disappointing that the Government did not do the simple, easy thing and put pubs on the same footing as launderettes and nightclubs. But it's not completely doom-and-gloom. The Government have moved in the right direction, and since they haven't done it the easy way, we'll have to do it the harder way and get every community pub in the country to get 'Asset of Community Value' status. Yes it's bureaucratic, yes it could have been done much more simply, but let's work with what we've got to protect our pubs."
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said: “The additional protection for pubs listed as Assets of Community Value is a sensible and pragmatic approach which will afford protection to those pubs that have already been identified as valuable, without tying up the whole market in red tape.
“The ALMR has long been vocal in its call for both national and local authorities to have regard for economic growth in both licensing and planning decisions. What we do not want is a scenario in which viable, economically beneficial pubs, bars and restaurants are being closed without opposition. Nor do we want to see vacant buildings being allowed to sit empty and unused."
Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour’s Shadow Planning Minister and MP for the City of Durham, said: “It is absolutely shocking that over the past couple of years, two pubs every week were converted into supermarkets. Communities should have more power to protect their treasured local pubs and to influence the developments that happen in their areas. I am proud to have voted with my Labour colleagues to protect pubs yesterday, but I am extremely disappointed that the amendment was defeated.
“Labour want to return decision making over local developments back to communities. We would allow local authorities to determine permitted development rules and use class changes locally, giving communities the power to shape their own areas and protect cherished establishments like much-loved pubs.”