We have made it clear through the national planning policy framework that local planning policies and decisions should guard against the unnecessary loss of valued community facilities such as pubs.
The Minister has said that pubs are valued community assets and part of our national heritage, but even if a community has declared its support for a local pub by listing it as an asset of community value, the owners can still demolish it, or convert it to a supermarket or betting shop. What will the Minister do about that, because surely it is at odds with his localism agenda?
Various proposals are in place to give added protection to pubs, such as the scheme for assets of community value. If a pub is to change hands in a sale, that gives the community an opportunity to protect those assets. Local authorities can use the national planning policy framework to supplement their local plans, and Cambridge and the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea are doing just that.
In my constituency, the Chesham Arms was listed as an asset of community value, but the owner tried to convert it into offices, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) has described. When is the Department going to make sure that its policies do not clash in that ridiculous way to undermine what was a good policy on assets of community value?
I am glad that the hon. Lady has said that the assets of community value scheme is a good policy. Its purpose is to protect the community when there is a sale of a building of importance to the local community; it is not a planning policy to protect against change of use. Local authorities need to use the planning tools at their disposal for that, such as their own local plan or an article 4 directive, which several local authorities, including Lewisham and Camden in London, have done successfully.