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New Clause 14 — Expenditure of Greater London Authority on housing or regeneration

Part of Infrastructure Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 26th January 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 6:30 pm, 26th January 2015

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. What we have been saying to local authorities around the country is that article 4 directions are already available to them to suspend permitted development rights. They have been reluctant to do that for a whole variety of reasons. The proposals we have outlined today should remove all that uncertainty and allow planning protection to go ahead.

The Government have of course already put various other measures in place to protect community pubs. We have scrapped both the beer and alcohol duty escalators, and cut beer duty in successive Budgets, thereby reducing the tax burden on the pubs and brewing industry and enabling economic growth. We have provided £250,000 in funding for business partners to help deliver more community-owned pubs and pubs which provide community-focused services. This funding has contributed to the number of co-operatively owned pubs more than doubling over the last two years, and many rural pubs now offer a wide range of community-focused services and facilities—for example, a community centre and library at the Brockweir inn in Gloucestershire and a community function room, keep-fit club and film club at the Packhorse, Suffolk.

We have also introduced various measures on business rates and put in place a statutory code of practice which will be enforced by an independent adjudicator. All of these measures demonstrate our continued support for community pubs as part of our broader strategy of lower taxes, less regulation and a growing economy to support a thriving and diverse pub sector.

I hope hon. Members will agree that our measures, including those announced today, provide a strong, clear framework for protecting pubs of community value. Given these protections, this amendment—while I recognise that it has the best of intentions behind it—is unnecessary in the vast majority of cases, and, as I have explained, in some cases would have an unhelpful impact on our high streets and communities. If this approach is not seen to work, we will return to it at a later stage, but at the moment we think it strikes the right balance to protect our most valued pubs.

I turn now to new clause 12 on the role of the Planning Inspectorate. I should say at the outset—