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

I entirely accept that point, but I have a rather simplistic view—perhaps it is a naive view—that local communities should have a voice in that development. It is really important that local people have some sense of ownership and direction over their town, village or city. Many people feel completely excluded from that process. There is an issue with the extension of permitted development rights to cover office conversions. It could be that the local community has decided that such a move is right for their area and that it should therefore be supported, but that can be dealt with through a normal planning application. If the community is supportive of it and if the right accommodation has been chosen for the outdoor play area, for waste collection, for parking and for all the other amenities that are required, that will be facilitated through the normal planning process. I shall press the Minister to look again at that matter.

A compelling vision of what the British pub can be, and of what it can expect from our Government would be welcomed not just by the pub industry but, more broadly, by the whole community. I say to the Minister that, rather than waiting for someone else to come forward with such a vision or for Cabinet approval, he could pull the whole thing together himself. There are plenty of all-party groups that would absolutely be willing to contribute to that conversation. On the Labour Benches, I and others would want to play our part in doing that, because it is so important. When these pubs are gone, they are gone forever and they will never come back. For many areas, once that happens, it is development that has gone too far.

It would be remiss of me not to reflect on the fact that we are considering this amendment because of the fantastic work of Lord Kennedy in the other place in recognising how important this matter is and in bringing it forward. I am pleased with the Government’s approach to this amendment, but of course the amendment would not be here for debate had it not been for the work of the Members in the other place. I thank Lord Kennedy and the others who contributed to that debate for the work that they have done. Members who are involved in all-party groups should continue with their work. From the Labour Benches I say to the Minister that if there is anything we can do in policy development terms to support this work that is so critical to the fabric of our communities, he has our time, support and energy in seeing it through.

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