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A plan to give local people more say over the future of their pubs was announced yesterday. It was immediately welcomed by Mid Worcestershire MP Sir Peter Luff. As Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills committee in the last Parliament he called for just such powers to be introduced.

More recently, at the end of last year, there was real anger in Fernhill Heath when Wychavon district council had no choice but to accept the change of use of the Halfway House pub and allow it to become a convenience store.

Last night, the planning minister Stephen Williams announced a major extension of existing powers under the 2011 Localism Act – and Peter Luff is urging local communities to use these new powers to protect their pubs.

During a Commons debate, Peter also pressed the minster for early implementation, asking the minister,

“He said earlier that secondary legislation would be introduced at the earliest opportunity. Will that happen during this Parliament?”

The minister, Stephen Williams, replied,

“Yes. In this instance, terms such as “earliest opportunity”, “shortly” and “soon” really do mean that. We all know that we are up against the buffers of a fixed-term Parliament, which is a very good constitutional initiative. When I say “at the earliest opportunity”, I mean “at the earliest opportunity”. In other words, we hope that the statutory instrument to which my hon. Friend has referred will be published and laid before Parliament in the next few weeks.”

Peter explained the new powers.

“There is protection in the national planning policy framework and in the Localism Act 2011, enabling people to list an asset as one of community value. The most popular use of this asset of community value legislation is for public houses.

“The government will now increase these powers in respect of pubs by building on exiting protections to help communities preserve those pubs that benefit the community the most.

“Listing a pub as an asset of community value already gives the community a chance to gain ownership of that pub and secures the full protection of the planning system. More than 1,800 sites have been listed in this way, over 600 of which have been pubs, making them by far the most popular type of asset to be listed.

“The government will now remove the permitted development right that allows for the change of use from pubs to shops, financial and professional services, and restaurants and cafes or for the demolition of any pubs as long as they are listed as assets of community value.

“This will mean that, for these pubs, a planning application must be made to a local planning authority before a change of use or demolition of a pub can take place. This gives the decision back to the council representing the local community.

“This change comes too late for the Halfway House, but I hope every parish council in Mid Worcestershire will now take a look at their local pubs and if all or any of them are important to the community they serve, as I know most are, register them as community assets.”


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