Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Archbishop of York supports amendment on community value of pubs

york-170117On 28th February 2017 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Neighbourhood Planning Bill at Report Stage. The Archbishop of York, Most Revd and Rt Hon John Sentamu, spoke in favour of an amendment to ensure planning permission had to be granted for a change of use for pub buildings. The amendment was passed at a vote.

Amendment 35: Lord Kennedy of Southwark

After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—

“Change of use of drinking establishments

In regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, after paragraph (6)(o) insert—“(p) as a drinking establishment”.(2) Before exercising his or her powers under section 41(1) of this Act, the Secretary of State must exercise the powers conferred by sections 59, 60, 61, 74 and 333(7) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to remove permitted development rights relating to the change of use or demolition of “drinking establishments”.”

The Archbishop of York 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.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark:…. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York spoke about the need to protect profitable pubs and I very much concur with what he said.