The British Beer and Pub Association says that around 30 pubs close every week in the UK blaming closures on factors such as high taxes on beer, competition from supermarkets selling cheap alcohol and changing demographics. Whilst it is perhaps laudable that the government has chosen to act to arrest this decline it has perhaps surprisingly targeted planning legislation.
Existing legislation allows any “asset” to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (“ACV”) with the local authority and community groups have been quick off the mark to list structures ranging from Lakeland Fells to football grounds as an ACV. Planning research suggests however that pubs are the most popular type of asset to be protected as an ACV.
On 6 April 2015 an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 came into force, placing additional restrictions on pubs which have been listed as an ACV by disallowing permitted development rights. These former rights included the right to demolish and to change the use of the pub to a shop, restaurant, use for professional services or as a state funded school without the need to apply for further planning consent.
These changes will now need planning consent. Government guidance suggests that it is open to the Local Planning Authority to decide whether ACV listing is a material consideration if an application for change of use is submitted considering all the circumstances of the case but having taken the decision to list an asset as an ACV a local authority may be reluctant to approve applications for what were previously permitted development rights
Community groups will still have to move quickly to protect pubs that are worthy of protection as pub owners and developers will need to consider the implementation of permitted development rights before an ACV application is made to remove them or alternatively challenge any ACV application that is made.