Plans to prevent pubs undergoing a change-of-use without planning permission would place "large and unnecessary burdens" on small pub operators, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has warned.
The BBPA has expressed concerns at the change of use of drinking establishments amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill in the House of Lords. Tabled by Lord Kennedy of Southwark, the amendment aims to re-categorise pubs into a class of their own, with the result that any change-or-use or demolition would require planning permission. Pubs can currently change to restaurants, office space and other retail uses without planning permission.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said that while she understands the wish to protect pubs, she believes it is also important to consider that the current planning rules allow them the flexibility to change use.
"These days, there are very blurred distinctions between pubs, bars and restaurants. If the right to change use were removed for pubs, there is a real concern that a pub could be penalised, or indeed prevented, from increasing its food offering by a local authority planning department.
"This would inevitably lead to disputes, costs and additional complexity for many small businesses, and take up the time of local authorities. Such a change would create a lot of uncertainty and have a very negative impact on property values, for pubs that are often the only significant asset of many people running small businesses."
Simmonds said that she hopes the government will carefully consider the implication of the amendment when the issue returns to the House of Commons. "If there were to be such a major change, there should be a full public consultation," she added.