MPs from the parliamentary Save the Pub group have laid an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill seeking to end the scandal of pubs being demolished or turned into supermarkets without needing planning permission.
New Clause 16 (NC16) if passed would mean planning permission is required before a pub can be demolished or turned into a retail store or office. For the purposes of existing planning legislation, depending on what they are used for, most buildings are currently classified into ‘use classes’.
Pubs are in Use Class A4, and retail stores such as supermarkets are in A1. Permitted development rights allow A4 buildings to have their use turned into A1 buildings without needing planning permission. Hence the scandal of pubs being turned into Tesco stores without communities getting a say.
NC16 is backed by long time pub campaigners Charlotte Leslie, Greg Mulholland, Grahame Morris and Caroline Lucas. It is also a campaign, called Pubs Matter, being run by CAMRA, who have found that two pubs every week were being converted into supermarkets between Jan 2012-2014. This is part of 31 pubs a week on average currently closing across the country.
Ministers have long argued that pubs can be listed as Assets of Community Value (ACVs) – however this does not remove the permitted development rights attached to them. Furthermore, of the approximately 48,000 pubs across the UK at the moment, just 600 are listed as ACVs. Article 4 directions, which councils can in theory use to remove permitted development rights, are also ineffective- the process is complex, with legal pitfalls and comes with a risk of compensation. CAMRA estimate that out of 48,000 pubs, only about 30 have been subject to Article 4 directions.
There is also a clear precedent for the change proposed by NC16. Given the recent surge of betting shops opening on our high streets, DCLG has already proposed changes so planning permission is needed before a local bank, for example, can be turned into a betting shop. NC16 merely extends this to pubs being turned into retail stores.
Commenting, Charlotte Leslie MP said:
“Communities across the country are seeing local pubs being turned into supermarkets despite the opposition of local residents who don’t want to see the loss of a much-loved local pub. It is time we ended this scandal and gave local people a say in the future of their pubs – that is what this simple and reasonable amendment will do.”
Greg Mulholland MP, Chair of the parliamentary Save the Pub group, added:
“If government is serious about localism and giving more power to communities, it must let them object when Tesco come in and want to turn their local pub into a supermarket. At the moment, Tesco don’t need planning permission to do so- this is not right, nor is it genuine localism. Communities deserve a say in the future of their local people. NC16 will give communities that say. The simple question is whether government and MPs support the right of communities to have a say, or whether they oppose it!”
Grahame Morris MP, Vice Chair of the parliamentary Save the Pub group, added:
“The current state of affairs is not acceptable. Local people are powerless to stop their pubs being turned into a Tesco. With ministers having failed to give communities that power, this amendment will, and I hope other MPs will agree to empower their communities and support NC16.”
Tim Page, Chief Executive of CAMRA says:
“It is currently possible to convert a pub into a betting shop, pay-day loan store or supermarket without the need for planning permission, making it far too easy for pubs valued by the community to be lost without local people having a say. Given the huge contribution that pubs make to community life in Britain we believe this cannot be right. The clause tabled by Charlotte Leslie MP is a fantastic opportunity to get the Government to take swift action to close these planning loopholes. We urge every MP who supports local communities and local pubs to get behind this clause and help secure a better future for the great British pub industry.”