Change of use of drinking establishments

Part of Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 28th March 2017.

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Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Devolution) 3:00 pm, 28th March 2017

That is an important point. In the debates on the Local Government Finance Bill and business rates revaluation, Labour was clear in pressing for the need to recognise properly the role and value of community pubs and how they are often affected by a range of taxation, whether that is duties, business rates or rises in national insurance contributions, or by the increase in the national living wage. All those will affect a pub’s viability. It is important that we have one review to look to protect pubs. In many places, quite often when a pub provides that essential community facility, it is the only facility left in the area. Perhaps the church, post office and butcher have closed, along with other facilities, so it may well be that the pub is the only place where the community can come together. Residents will be rightly fearful that the response so far does not go across the whole of Government and they will want to see a plan.

We heard an announcement about permitted development rights and the change from office use to residential. The Opposition have been forceful in our view that the extension of permitted development rights should be reversed. There have been some extremely inappropriate developments, often against local community interests and against what the local community says it wants for the area. Developers are often looking for short-term gain at the expense of a community’s long-term sustainability. Will the Minister look seriously at the genuine impact of the policy change? There is no doubt that it has increased the number of units brought to market, but I would question the quality of those units, not only in terms of their size—many of them are very small indeed—but in terms of the attention to detail, the finish and the quality of life for people who live in converted office accommodation. Developers will quite often squeeze as many units into a premises as possible, bypassing the planning regime that any residential development would have to follow. The loophole needs to be closed at some point.