Parliament to debate Huppert's shops and pubs bill
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert’s Bill to protect independent shops and pubs could be debated in the House of Commons today (Friday, January 25).
The Local Services (Planning) Bill, which would give power to planning authorities to prevent the demolition or change of use of a pub or local independent shop without planning permission, will get its Second Reading.
It is the third time the Bill’s Second Reading has been scheduled to go before the Commons; on two previous occasions the sessions ran out of time before it could be debated.
Today's debate could take place just days after the British Beer and Pub Association lodged papers in the High Court for a judicial review against Cambridge City Council’s stand to protect the city’s pubs.
The association is objecting to the council’s planning policy to allow planning permission for change of use or demolition of a pub only after it has been put on the market for a year. It says the policy is too confining for pub businesses including independent pubs.
Julian has tabled a Commons’ Early Day Motion calling on MPs to condemn the move and recognise that the present planning system allows viable pubs to be sold for non-pub use without the community having a say.
Speaking about the debate he said: “I am hopeful that it will be third time lucky for this debate but there are no guarantees when it comes to the workings of Parliament. It’s such a vitally important issue not only for Cambridge but for the country as a whole and I want to see some discussion on it.”
If the debate goes ahead, Julian will tell the House: “Since I introduced the Bill, support for this campaign has continued to grow, at the local and national level. I am more convinced than ever that we need reform.
“The Bill would help local communities to protect their shops and pubs. It would tweak planning law – only slightly – to rebalance the playing field in their favour. The Bill as drafted leaves it up to local councils to decide whether or not they need these powers - whether it is right for their communities.”
Julian will also tell Parliamentarians about the excellent response to his competition, Discovering Cambridge, which is designed to encourage residents and visitors to the city to visit independent shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants and nominate their favourites each month in a particular category.
Addressing the loss of Cambridge pubs he will say: “There are over 80 pubs in Cambridge, serving different communities – some local, some attracting people from across the city; great pubs such as the Maypole, Empress, Cambridge Blue, St Radegund and Devonshire Arms.
“But sadly, during the last three years, over 20 pubs have closed in Cambridge, and 12 pubs are closing each week nationally.
“The Bird in Hand, in Newmarket Road, was a popular meeting spot - particularly for the LGBT community in my constituency. But it was shut down earlier last year by the brewery which owned it, and has now been converted into an estate agent’s.
“The future of other pubs such as the Zebra in Maids Causeway, the Ranch in Histon Road and the Flying Pig in Hills Road also hang in the balance.
“In the area of East Chesterton, formerly home to many popular pubs, the Green Dragon is now the only one left trading. The local Penny Ferry, Dog and Pheasant and Haymakers are all boarded up, and this means the area has been robbed of many valuable community meeting places.
“Planning law needs to be able to discriminate between local and independent business. Current law does not discriminate between a Sainsbury’s and a local grocer. But it should- both we and the residents know that they are two very different propositions.
"Yes, we live in a free market economy where it is a fact of life that if a shop is unprofitable, it closes. But large chains, many of them huge, multinational ones at that, have a very unfair advantage against independent business. This is about trying to help level the playing field.”
The full wording of Julian’s Early Day Motion reads:
Condemns the British Beer & Pub Associations (BBPA) decision to pursue judicial review against Cambridge City Council's supplementary planning policy for pubs despite being introduced by a democratically elected council; dismisses thinly veiled attempts of the BBPA to justify their actions as benefiting pubs when Cambridge City Council’s policy will help protect viable local pubs; notes that Cambridge City Council have done what the Government envisaged in the Localism Bill and built on the NPPF with locally tailored planning policies; recognises that the planning system allows the demolition of freestanding pubs and the conversion of pubs to a number of different uses without planning permission, which means that BBPA members and others are selling viable, wanted pubs for non pub use without the community having a say; believes that the actions of the BBPA are a further example that they serve the interests of property owning pub companies and big pub owning brewing companies and they no longer represent the British brewing industry and do not represent pubs, licensees and customers; commends Cambridge City Council's intensions to defend the policy against the BBPA; notes that the Local Services (Planning) Bill would provide much needed protection for local pubs; and calls on the government to close the loopholes in planning policy that allows pubs to be converted or demolished without planning permission so that all changes of use or demolitions of a pub go through the planning process, to allow the local community to have a say and defend local pubs.