My Lords, Amendments 35 and 39 were debated extensively in the other place. They relate to planning protection for pubs. At the moment, pubs are subject to permitted development rights, meaning that they can be developed for alternative commercial use—for example, they can be turned into offices or shops—without the need for planning permission. The only exception is where a pub has been designated or recommended as an asset of community value—an ACV. More than 1,750 pubs have been given ACV status but, like the noble Lord who moved Amendment 35, I argue that the process is too cumbersome. As Roberta Blackman-Woods put it on Report in the other place:
“Although pubs can be protected if they are designated an asset of community value, the process for that can be very cumbersome. I believe it is much more appropriate to return the decision on whether a pub can be demolished or converted to the local community, where it belongs, rather than dealing with it through permitted development”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/12/16; cols. 737-8.]
Unless pubs are designated or recommended as an asset of community value, they are at risk of closure in a difficult market for pubs and landlords. Pubs in high-value areas are highly sought after for conversion, even if they are profitable. The amendments would remove pubs from permitted development rights, meaning that planning permission would be needed for conversion, regardless of ACV status. It is argued that this would help local communities protect profitable pubs as the local council will be able to refuse an application for conversion where the pub is profitable and viable. Given that pubs are considered an important aspect of a vibrant community life, and given the Church of England’s concern for that community life being vibrant, these amendments should be supported. I have no investment in any pub.