Parliament to debate Huppert’s shops and pubs Bill

24 January, 2013 1 Comment

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert’s Bill to protect independent shops and pubs could be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow (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.

Tomorrow’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 his 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 3 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.”

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  • Aldo Marino: February 11, 2013 6:58 pm

    Dear Mr. Huppert
    I appreciate and can feel your passion in your effort to keep failing pubs open, However may I take this opportunity in correcting your facts in regard to The Bird Public House on Newmarket Road. I am an investor who purchased the building in May 2012. The pub was closed by the brewery and we did submit an application to refurbish into an Estate Agent Office. However after careful consideration and discussion both the Estate Agent and myself agreed this location would be best suited for a pub restaurant. Together we sought the correct type of restauranteur/publican. I confirm we have successfully agreed terms. The building is undergoing extensive refurbishment at great cost and will be opening in a month or two. All involved parties have joined to make this venture a successful one. As you are aware in order for Cambridge to retain these precious locations the public must regularly use them. They cannot be expected to remain open otherwise.

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