NPPF ALREADY SAVING PUBS
By Paul Ainsworth, CAMRA's Volunteer Local Planning Policy Advisor
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into force in March and is already making a real difference when it comes to saving pubs from closure.
The NPPF contains several national policies which are protective of pubs, most notably a requirement that planning authorities should guard against the loss of valued community facilities like pubs.
Two recent decisions by Planning Inspectors demonstrate the power and value of the NPPF for pub campaigners.
The Unicorn, Cherry Hinton, Cambridge Cherry Hinton is a suburb of Cambridge. There are two other pubs, both close to the Unicorn, and all three are owned by Greene King. GK closed the Unicorn and applied for consent to turn it into a house. The City Council refused the application, citing the pro-pub policies in what was then the draft NPPF. GK appealed and by the time the Planning Inspector held the hearing, the NPPF was in operation. The Inspector dismissed the appeal because the development "would result in the loss of a community facility for which there is no clearly substantial evidence that there is no longer a need, contrary to the objectives of the NPPF".
It's important to note that the Council had no local policies of its own protective of pubs but relied entirely on the NPPF – which proved sufficient. The decision was also made despite there being two other pubs close by and, it must be said, a lack of local protest, other than by CAMRA and the Civic Society.
The Victoria Hotel, St Annes, Lancs The application here was to demolish the pub and build retirement housing on the site. Again, the NPPF had been published by the time the appeal hearing took place and the Inspector gave it great weight. She dismissed the appeal on two main grounds – the loss of community facilities, as per the Unicorn, but also the loss of a heritage asset. This was despite the Victoria not being a listed building but the scheme's opponents successfully argued that the building contributed sufficiently to the area's character as to bring it within the scope of the NPPF requirements to protect heritage assets.
So what does all this mean for CAMRA Branches? First and foremost, the NPPF gives us a powerful tool for opposing planning applications which would result in pubs being lost. Even if the local Council lacks effective planning policies of its own, you can cite the NPPF as a reason for refusing the application on the grounds that a valued community facility will be lost (and, if the building has any architectural merit, that a heritage asset would also be affected). Of course, if the Council does have strong local policies that makes the case even stronger and we need to keep encouraging Councils in that direction.
In my position as volunteer Local Planning Policy Advisor, I'm here to help Branches fight unwanted planning applications and frame reasons why they should be rejected. Please do contact me if you'd like any assistance – or if there are any other planning issues on which I might be help you. I can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01954 203230.