With the smoking ban and the switch in preference from wine to beer many pubs have been struggling. 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. There has also been a reduction of red tape making it easy for pubs to have live music.

Now there has been a further initiative to provide greater protection against pubs being demolished or granted change of use against the wishes of local people.

The Pubs Minister Kris Hopkins says:

“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 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 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.

“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.

“Local and neighbourhood plans should be consistent with and reflect the strong support for pubs in the National Planning Policy Framework. This encourages local planning authorities to plan positively to support the sustainability of communities. This includes plans to deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs, and to promote strong rural economies through the retention and development of local services and community facilities in villages, including pubs.”

He adds:

“These changes mark the next step in our ongoing support for those pubs that are so very important to local communities. We believe it will provide greater protections for pubs, and give communities 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. Our broader strategy of lower taxes, less regulation and a growing economy are the best way to support a thriving and diverse pub sector.”

Some will argue that the market should be left to decide whether a pub continues trade or closes with the building is used for something else. But I think it is welcome that Government policy takes into account the community benefit of pubs.