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Insight & Opinion

Pubs Minister protects community assets from developers

Author: Luke

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The Pubs Minister has announced plans to help reduce the current rate of 29 licensed premises closing every week by introducing legislation that will protect local watering holes if they are an “assets of community value”.

Having been selling and letting homes in London for more than 25 years, Paramount Properties has dealt with a number of freehold pub conversions.

But Kris Hopkins – whose full title is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with responsibility for local government, adult social care, planning policy and casework in relation to wind farms and solar energy plus community pubs – says that the amendment to the Infrastructure Bill that has been tabled means pubs in England that are listed as important by communities will not allowed to be demolished or have their use changed without planning permission.

The minister says more than 600 pubs have already been identified as assets of community value, which – if the new legislation becomes law – will allow the community to put together a bid to buy the pub should it be put up for sale.

While retail chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s have long been keen to get hold of former pubs, which are often in prime locations and can be converted into convenience stores without planning permission, London’s high property prices mean they are increasingly attractive to developers who can make significant profits from converting pubs into luxury apartments.

Hopkins went on to explain that the government plans wants to prevent this by bringing 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 removal of the national permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition.

“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.”

Everybody in the licensing trade would agree with the pub minister’s view that the Great British pub is a national treasure. Aside from being part of the social and cultural fabric of our nation, pubs also provide thousands of jobs and boost the economy by £21bn a year.

And it seems that the government’s assets of community value policy is already bearing fruit. Just last month, a borough council’s decision to give a former 19th century pub extra protection from developers was upheld in the courts.

The Black Swan in the Derbyshire village of Idridgehay, which first opened in 1827, closed in 2012 and was listed as an ACV after developers bought it.

Despite developer Crostone Ltd appealing against the decision, a tribunal judge backed Amber Valley Borough Council’s move.

Crostone had argued the Black Swan had not furthered “the social wellbeing or interests of the local community” since 1997 when it became a French-themed restaurant.

But Judge Peter Lane accepted the council’s evidence the local community wants the pub to be restored to its former use and that it was a “realistic” prospect.

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