Department for Communities and Local Government
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Coalition ministers change the law to protect the Great British pub

Ministers announce even greater protection for pubs.

Ministers yesterday (26 January 2015) announced they will change the law to provide even greater protection for pubs which play a crucial role at the heart of our communities.

This action will stop valued community pubs from being demolished or converted into different uses against the will of local people.

Ministers have already abolished the unpopular beer and alcohol duty escalators, cut business taxes for pubs and armed people with the power to list their local as an asset of community value.

So far more than 600 locals have already been listed as assets of community value and therefore protected from being sold off under the nose of the community they serve. People who list their local pubs are then given 6 months and the support they need to come together with a community bid to buy it should it be put up for sale.

Due to the passion demonstrated for pubs by the significant numbers listed as assets, ministers believe communities should also be given the right to consider planning applications when changes are proposed to the use of their listed locals.

This provides the right balance between protecting valued community pubs, but avoiding blanket regulation which would lead to more empty and boarded up buildings. Blanket regulation could also have adverse consequences on the asset value of pub buildings, harming the financial viability of the pub industry.

This government recognises the economic, environmental and social benefits of allowing redundant buildings to be converted into productive uses without excessive red tape.

Community Pubs Minister Kris Hopkins said:

The Great British pub is a national treasure which is why we are determined to protect it. Aside from being part of the social and cultural fabric of our nation, pubs also provide thousands of jobs and boost the economy by £21 billion a year.

A lot of hard work has been put in by communities up and down the land to protect their beloved local from sell-off and I am delighted this latest government action will strengthen their hand further. This change in the law will provide even greater protection for local pubs and give communities even more of a say in their preservation.

But the planning system can only do so much: planning rules cannot keep pubs open which are not making money. Lower taxes, less regulation and a growing economy are the best way to support a thriving and diverse pub sector.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams added:

This government wants to help to protect local pubs where they are seen to be important community assets and to ensure they are working in the best interests of the communities they serve.

That is why we have been funding terrific organisations such as Pub is the Hub and the Plunkett Foundation whose advice line provides a wealth of advice and information for communities looking to take over their local. This is helping create a growing number of thriving co-operative businesses run by and for the local community.

This latest government support comes as landlords tied to pub companies are being given new rights under a statutory code of practice, which addresses the imbalance of power between pub companies and their tenants to ensure all parties are treated fairly.

Further information

Community Rights

The Community Rights are a set of powers which give local people more control over their communities. They can help local communities save local shops, pubs, libraries, parks, football grounds. The Community Rights can help decide what is built, what it looks like and how local areas should develop. Plus groups have the chance to deliver local services and develop them into community enterprises.

The Community Right to Bid, which came into effect on 21 September 2012, gives community groups a fairer chance to prepare and bid to buy community buildings and facilities that are important to them. Communities can nominate any local building or land they love as an ‘asset of community value’ and then, if it comes up for sale, they have 6 months to raise the funds to buy it.

The Community Right to Bid gives communities a fairer chance to bid to take over local assets of community value, including pubs. This government has funded a £19 million support programme to help eligible community organisations to take on the community ownership and management of assets that are important to them, including pubs. According to theCampaign for Real Ale, over 600 pubs have so far been listed as community assets.

What we are proposing?

National permitted development rights are an important part of the planning system; providing flexibility, reducing bureaucracy and allowing the best use to be made of existing buildings. However, the passion for community pubs as demonstrated by the significant numbers listed as assets of community value highlights the need to enable local communities to consider planning applications for the change of use of a pub of particular local value. We therefore plan to bring forward secondary legislation at the earliest opportunity so that in England the listing of a pub as an asset of community value will trigger a temporary removal of the national permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of those pubs that communities have identified as providing the most community benefit.

This will mean that in future where a pub is listed as an asset of community value, a planning application will be required for the change of use or demolition of a pub. This then provides an opportunity for local people to comment, and enables the local planning authority to determine the application in accordance with its local plan, any neighbourhood plan, and national policy. The local planning authority may take the listing into account as a material consideration when determining any planning application.

What an asset of community value is

Supporting community pubs

  • we are providing £250,000 to Pub is The Hub and the Plunkett Foundation over 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015 to help pubs to provide a wide range of community-focussed services and facilities and to help local residents buy and run co-operative pubs

  • the National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that to deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities that communities need, planning policies and decisions should provide for the use of such facilities, including pubs, and guard against their unnecessary loss

  • we are assisting firms with business rates: the Localism Act helps make small business rate relief easier to claim; we have doubled small business rate relief scheme from October 2010 to March 2016; and we have given councils powers to levy discretionary business rate discounts which could, for example, be used to support local community pubs

  • a further centrally-funded business rate discount for pubs (and restaurants and shops) has been introduced worth £1,000 in 2014 to 2015 and £1,500 in 2015 to 2016 for premises with rateable values of up to £50,000

  • the government has scrapped the last administration’s plans for a 10% rise in cider duties (the so-called cider tax)

  • we have cut duty on beer by 1p, and scrapped the beer duty escalator which would have further increased beer duty every year; as of March 2014, beer is 8p a pint cheaper as a result

  • pubs have benefited from the greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes than was previously allowed by regulations

  • we are supporting landlords leasing their pubs from pub companies through the introduction of a statutory code of practice to govern the relationship between pub-owning companies and their tied tenants, with an independent adjudicator to enforce the code

  • the Live Music Act 2012 has made it easier for pubs to play live music

  • we are addressing unfair competition and loss-leading of alcohol by some retailers, without adversely affecting the price of a pint in a pub

  • as part of the ‘focus on enforcement of regulation’ initiative launched in July 2012, we have sought to reduce over-zealous regulation of pubs

  • new guidance issue by the CCTV Commissioner has sought to stop the blanket imposition of CCTV in all pubs, irrespective of how well they are run

  • pubs are among the businesses which have benefited from our exemption of unnecessary health and safety inspections

  • changes in corporation tax and national insurance (abolishing NIcontributions for under-21s earning less than £813 per week from April 2015, and making it cheaper to employ people on incomes below £21,000) will benefit the pubs sector, which employs large numbers of young people

Read the written ministerial statement by Community Pubs Minister Kris Hopkins

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