Change of use of drinking establishments

Part of Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 28th March 2017.

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Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London) 1:54 pm, 28th March 2017

Before I get into the detail of the amendments, I would like to put on record my thanks to my noble Friend and ministerial colleague Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, who ably steered the Bill through the Lords. I would also like to thank one of my distinguished predecessors as Housing Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, who led on the compulsory purchase provisions, which we will touch on in the third of the three groups we are discussing this afternoon. Finally, I thank all peers who contributed positively to the debate in the other place. The Bill has benefited from their constructive challenge and scrutiny. For my part, I am pleased that the Bill received a warmer reception than the Housing and Planning Bill did a year ago.

I wish to turn to permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of pubs, and to update the House on the steps we are taking in respect of the permitted development rights for the change of use from office to residential. First, I will speak to the Government amendment in respect of permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of pubs. Let me start by assuring hon. Members that we have listened to both Houses and to the support that Members have expressed for valued community pubs. They will see that we have accepted the principle of the amendment introduced into the Bill in the other place. Our amendments in lieu therefore set out the detail of how we will take that principle forward.

The amendment commits us to update the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 to remove the permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of drinking establishments, including pubs. In tabling the amendments in lieu, I reassure hon. Members that we have continued to engage through the passage of the Bill with interested Members and bodies, such as the Campaign for Real Ale and the British Beer and Pub Association. I can confirm that we will remove the permitted development rights to change to a restaurant or cafe, financial or professional service, or a shop. We will also remove the permitted development rights to change to an office for up to two years and to a school for a single academic year.

In making these changes, the Government are keen to avoid any potential unintended consequences. As such, we are clear that the best way to support pubs is to retain the A4 “drinking establishments” use class for pubs, wine bars and other types of bars. Doing so will allow pubs to innovate and intensify their use, for example by opening a pub garden or starting to provide live music, without facing a risk that this will be a change of use that requires a full planning application. Our intention in retaining the A4 use class is to allow pubs to develop within this use class without having to seek planning permission, thus avoiding unintended consequences, and unnecessary cost and bureaucracy.

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