Change of use of drinking establishments

Part of Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 28th March 2017.

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Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West 2:45 pm, 28th March 2017

I am asking the Minister and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Secretary of State’s name is on the amendment, so I take this opportunity to thank him because he has clearly listened and accepted the proposal. As he knows, I also go to pubs in his constituency because I have family in Bromsgrove.

It is for the experts in the Department to consider the possibility of introducing a moratorium, because there is no possibility of it being done externally. This is not a matter simply for the industry. The Co-op is probably the worst pub killer of all the supermarket chains, others of which have been pretty bad. The supermarket chains are not part of the pub sector, and they see pubs as fodder for imposing their unwanted stores on communities. The supermarket chains will clearly not jump to do this, and nor will developers that are seeking to exploit high land values in London, St Albans and other parts of the country. From that point of view, it would be great if the Minister said that there should be a moratorium and, in the spirit of this change, called on people not to pursue such conversions now that they are deemed by Parliament to be wrong.

This is not the end of the matter. Ultimately, it has not been about securing great protection for pubs; that is one of the things that has been rather misunderstood and misrepresented, sometimes by both sides of the argument. It is simply about giving communities a say and about removing absurd permitted development rights that created a loophole that has been exploited by large pub-owning companies and large supermarkets for too long. There will still be predatory developers, and pub companies will still seek to undermine pubs to secure development or to go through the planning process for building a supermarket.

As I have said, the assets of community value scheme remains important, but it is now time to consider strengthening it. Giving communities a genuine right to buy, as communities in Scotland have, is long overdue and would represent genuine localism. I have had a conversation with the Minister, and it is now time to consider a separate category in the planning and tax system for community pubs, which are the ones that we really care about. They are the ones that have the community value, which many Members have mentioned, in a way that other licensed drinking establishments do not.

CAMRA has so far said that it does not want to engage in this, but it is now time to crack the nut of defining a genuine community pub that does the things we have talked about and that has value to the community. The British Pub Confederation and Protect Pubs certainly wish to do so. If we do that, in addition to creating the extra layer of genuine planning protection for those pubs, and only those pubs, against predatory development, and only when the pubs are viable, we can crack the nut of having a different system of taxation, and we will never again see the disastrous headlines for the Treasury such as of one pub in York facing a 600% increase in its rateable value. I was in that very small pub, the wonderful Slip Inn, a couple of weeks ago during the Liberal Democrat conference. As I did at the meeting with Charlotte Leslie, I offer to work with the Minister to find a way of doing that, which could offer the security we need for our hugely important, viable community pubs.

This wonderful news is the start of a conversation, and I thank the Minister and all those involved. This is a hugely significant day in pub campaigning. As this is English Tourism Week, I know that every Member here today, and many more who are not, will want to raise a glass to this win for pubs and to the Minister for listening to all the campaigners who have helped to make it happen. They will want to toast this victory and the importance of the great English and great British pub.

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