Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, February 13, 2015

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The latest attempt to protect our pubs was to add a clause to the infrastructure bill that was debated in the House of Commons on January 26.

It was proposed to add a clause ‘to ensure that any proposed demolition of or change of use to public houses and other drinking establishments would be subject to planning permission”.

This was defeated 293-245, with local MP Henry Bellingham voting against.

I had written and asked him to support the amendment and in his reply he said: “I recognise that there is passionate support to enable local communities to consider planning applications for the change of use of a pub of particular local value. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has recently said that it will bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity, so that 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 premises.

“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 will then provide an opportunity for local people to comment, and enable 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 also take the listing into account as a material consideration when determining any planning application.”

So it’s pretty clear that if you want to make sure that your local pub does not suddenly become a supermarket or is turned into a house it is a good idea to take the initiative and apply for it to be listed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’. There is a guide to exactly what this means and how to do it on the West Norfolk Council website at www.west-norfolk.gov.uk.

I think it is a good move to do this as soon as possible and not wait until the pub is under threat.

There are instances of applications being contested by the owner because the pub has not been used in the ‘recent past’, which is difficult when the pub is boarded up. Currently there are about 600 pubs listed as ACVs over the country, but only two of them are in West Norfolk. One is the King’s Arms at Shouldham which was bought by the community, and the ACV played a big part in allowing this to happen. The other is the Gate at Fair Green.

In all there are only six ACVs listed in West Norfolk, including The Walks football stadium.

CAMRA would like to see as many pubs listed as possible and have produced a guide to the process under the ‘Campaigns’ heading on www.camra.org.uk. You will need 21 people to sign. Better to be safe than sorry.