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Pubs receive special protection in Neighbourhood Planning Act

The Neighbourhood Planning Act (the Act) received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017. One element of the Act gives greater protection to pubs, to combat the view that the number of pubs is declining.

What does the Act do and what will this mean for pub owners and occupiers?

How does the Act seek to protect pubs?

The Act provides that the Secretary of State must make an order, as soon as reasonably practicable, to remove permitted development rights (PD Rights) from drinking establishments. The Secretary of State has committed to do this by July.

What are PD Rights?

PD Rights, in effect, allow specified types of development without the need to obtain planning permission.

How will this affect pub owners?

The use of PD Rights by the owners of drinking establishments was severely curtailed in April 2015. The following PD Rights were withdrawn for drinking establishments that had been listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV):

  • Change of use to Class A1 (shops) Class A2 (financial and professional services) Class A3 (restaurants and cafés); 
  • Change of use to flexible use Class A1 (shops), Class A2 (financial and professional services), Class A3 (restaurants and cafés), and Class B1 (business), for a period of two years;
  • Change of use to a state funded school for one academic year; and 
  • Demolition of the building.

Even where a drinking establishment is not listed as an ACV, the owner cannot use PD Rights without first following a prescribed procedure.

Once the order has been made as required by the Act, these PD Rights will be removed for all drinking establishments, regardless of whether or not they are listed as ACVs. This means that planning permission will need to be obtained for any of the above developments.

Will pub owners be able to do anything without planning permission?

It was acknowledged that it would not be beneficial to the viability of pubs to prevent all development. Therefore, the Secretary of State's order will allow pubs to extend their food offering by permitting a change of use to a mixed use within Class A4 (drinking establishments) and A3 (restaurants and cafes).

What action needs to be taken?

Wandsworth Council and Southwark Council have already taken action to protect their pubs, introducing article 4 directions to remove PD Rights for pubs. Earlier this week, Lewisham Council announced that it was considering going down the same route.

However, once the order required under the Act has been made, article 4 directions will not be necessary. Until then outside areas subject to Article 4 directions, development can be undertaken using PD Rights, taking into account the requirements that are already in place to protect pubs under the ACV legislation.

Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones


This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2017. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions




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