Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:19 pm on 28th February 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat 3:19 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 39, to which I added my name. I also support the thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has just said. As it is the first time I have spoken today, I will place on record my interests in the register as a member of Sheffield City Council.

In Committee, the Minister generously asked for examples of where the asset of community value scheme was not working well in particular authorities. He will be aware that I contacted CAMRA in Sheffield to ask whether there were any incidents of such difficulties with the scheme in regard to pubs. I was quite surprised at the amount of information CAMRA gave me—which I am sure the Minister has seen. It became quite clear from reading about what was going on that this is not isolated to Sheffield, which merely exemplifies what is happening in many communities across the country. This is a burden on communities. It is a David and Goliath fight where the community must fight sometimes a large local authority to prove that an asset is of community value. We talked many times in Committee about the difference between pubs and other commercial operations. It is about not just the economics but also the community and social value that a pub has in binding communities together.

I have come to the view that the asset of community value is not enough in itself to protect those pubs, particularly given the time needed and the burden put on community organisations to save a pub. It is an unbalanced fight between the giant and the small community organisation. For that reason, pubs should have permitted development rights taken away. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said, that would give the community an equal voice in the planning process. It does not necessarily mean that a pub will not be converted to a particular use if it goes through the planning process, but it gives a statutory right to every single member of the community, without cost, to have a say within the planning process, and to be able to explain why a particular pub should or should not be changed and the effect that that will have on the community and the setting of that pub. For that reason I have come to the conclusion that we need to take the permitted development rights away from pubs if they are changing specific use or will be demolished and put them properly and correctly within the framework of the planning process.