A legal loophole that allows pubs to be turned into shops without planning consent is to be targeted by South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC).
The council is set to lobby national government to close to loophole after they were unable to stop The Pear Tree pub in Hildersham from being turned into a German furniture shop as it remained within the retail category.
Residents had formed SToPiT – Save The Pear Tree – and hoped SCDC could pass an Article Four directive to stop landlord Helen Moroney from changing the pub, but at last Wednesday’s (January 8) planning committee meeting councillors realised they were powerless to stop the conversion of the village’s last amenity.
The pub had been listed as an asset of community value – like Abington campsite – and if it had been sold the community would have had six months to table a bid.
However, that rule brought in under the Government’s localism agenda offers no protection to buildings merely changing use.
SCDC will be asking for the Government to enable local communities to have more of a say when to ensure listed assets can be retained in rural villages.
Cllr Roger Hickford, who campaigned with and supported SToPiT, said: “The pub was a central focus of the village and closure has been a real blow for local people.
“It is incredibly frustrating that the national planning rules leave district councils with little power to tackle this problem where there is no change of ownership.”
Mark Logan, chairman of SToPiT, said the group will continue to exist and support SCDC in lobbying the Government.
“The Pear Tree is an empty shell as they’ve ripped out the bar and the cellar and they want twice what it’s worth,” he said.
“We could build another pub in Hildersham for under £200,000.”
SCDC leader Cllr Ray Manning has asked for a report to be presented to the planning policy and localism portfolio holder Cllr Pippa Corney.
“I sympathise with people in Hildersham who want their local pub to be retained as at the moment national planning policy and the government’s community right to bid legislation are not operating hand-in-hand,” he said.
“The Pear Tree has highlighted the need for a change by the government so assets like pubs, which are at the heart of communities, cannot be changed with such ease.”
For the full story and all the latest news see Thursday’s (January 16) Echo.