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Save the pub…and the cinema, post office, etc

November 29, 2010

The coalition government will soon publish its Localism Bill.  I hope to see a radical shift in power away from Westminster to local communities.  Personally, I want to see local councils given more freedom over their planning policies so that they can shape their communities according to local circumstances, not constrained by a national template.

My experience both as Bristol West’s MP for the last five and a half years and for six previous years as the councillor for Bristol city centre brought home to me again and again how weak local communities can be to either stop inappropriate development or to encourage the building of a needed local facility.

In the last decade we have seen cinemas and pubs closed by national companies.  Their owners either stop new management from coming forward to run the site ( a restrictive covenant) or, worse, demolish the facility.  The former ABC Cinema on Whiteladies Rd would be an example from a decade ago of the wishes of the local community being frustrated by corporate power.  More recently the Ashley Court Hotel (aka Ship Aground) was demolished despite a huge community campaign to save it.  In that case the MP and all the local councillors objected but we were powerless to stop the bulldozers.

A Conservative MP (Nigel Adams, Selby) has cross party support for his private member’s Protection of Local Services (Planning) Bill.  The four page simple Bill would permit local councils to require planning permission to demolish any building deemed to provide a local service.  The Bill may go ahead in its current form or could be the subject of an amendment to the government’s wider Bill.

The Bill has the backing of CAMRA, Local Works (who provided much of the impetus for the Sustainable Communities Act), Living Streets and many other niche campaign groups.  I hope the law gets changed soon.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Tillier permalink
    November 29, 2010 10:30 pm

    A greater scrutiny of lobbying of MP’s and of business, coupled with a stricter code of practice for councils to adhere to, with realistic and practical, enforceable penalties for breaches of the code, would go a long way towards enshrining protection of the infrastructures of local amenities and service-provision points, such as Parks, Playing-Fields, Swimming-Pools, Sports facilities and Libraries. For too long the selling-off of these types of structures and facilities, even including the destruction of some listed buildings, has been engaged in by unscrupulous councillors looking to raise money while ingratiating themselves with contractors and developers. Indeed, there have been a plethora of cases where councillors stood to gain materially themselves by such actions, because of situations where they themselves were directors, advisers or otherwise employees/owners of such firms and companies as stood to win contracts for the so-called “development” of public-use amenities and service-provision points. This should be a national scandal instead of being part of late-night/early-morning “debates” in the house, and otherwise known almost exclusively to readers of Private Eye. I hope you are intending to issue a challenge to this rampant nepotism and corruption by doing all you can to render a bill to force changes that will result in the reversal of this despicable trend and outline proposals for the strict enforcement of penalties for infringement of orders of listed properties and important public amenities spaces and structures.

    • November 30, 2010 12:51 pm

      thanks Martin. If you have any Bristol examples of what you allege, I’d be interested to read them. As for MPs, the coalition is going to look at the regulation of lobbyists.

  2. November 30, 2010 7:15 pm

    The coalition government will soon publish its Localism Bill.
    Yes, what’s the hold-up, Stephen? The story was that it would be published last Monday, and Andrew Stunell has been pre-announcing some of its features.

  3. David Gould permalink
    December 1, 2010 3:50 am

    I had no idea that the Ashley Court Hotel was being demolished and would have helped campaign.

    It was a peerless local community hub that had an amazing terrace with views of Easton (better at night).

    I don’t know much about this law but I do know that transparency and communication must be a big part of it.

  4. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    December 1, 2010 8:14 pm

    Please support the Daylight Saving Bill this Friday. Amongst other things it will allow sport to take place on weekday evenings, especially youth cricket which is normally played mid week. Anything that encourages young people to participate in sport instead of watching on TV has to be a good thing don’t you think?

  5. Art of the Possible permalink
    December 2, 2010 9:48 pm

    Now, as a fan, may I ask – ‘What Happened to the Sustainable Communities Act’? Can anyone detail any actual practical, positive results that have come out of it? Or even from its Amendment?

    Any reports or news items? Or has it, as appears, sunk with barely a trace? Google searches are drawing a blank for me on the subject so far. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.

    If not, why not, do you think?

    You’d expect it to be perfect grounding for this flowering of the ‘Big Society’ that we’re all so eagerly awaiting.

    Ever hopeful.

  6. harryT permalink
    December 3, 2010 9:01 am

    “My experience both as Bristol West’s MP for the last five and a half years and for six previous years as the councillor for Bristol city centre brought home to me again and again how weak local communities can be to either stop inappropriate development…”

    I gues you should start supporting the Commons Act 2006 again. The right to stop development on green land used for recreation is almost 1,000 years old and perhaps the only legal right local communities have to stop building on green spaces.

    But you only support this for Georgian Square in Clifton. Not for working class areas where you want to build a stadium.

    Yet again, you are exposed as an oppoortunist hypocrite.

  7. Mark permalink
    December 3, 2010 2:03 pm

    I suspect that everybody; even a pro-stadium supporter like me is in favour of the Commons Act 2006 where its application is relevant.

    Sadly with Ashton Vale its use is an abuse as the technical flaws in this law and is being used by a minority in partnership with invisible green politicians to impose its will on the greater Bristol community.

    • Art of the Possible permalink
      December 3, 2010 8:47 pm

      ” invisible green politicians”

      Aaah but you can see them can you, the little green men?

  8. BobS permalink
    December 4, 2010 10:43 am

    What people really mean is they only support the Commons Act when they also don’t want the development to take place.

    Ashton Vale is the classic Green application and fits the law perfectly. It is hypocritical and slanderous to attack them as “misusing” the law. It has been brought entirely by local people and no Green Party or other politicians have been involved.

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