Thank you to all those who contacted me about the High Street Rental Auction Scheme and its impact on pubs.
Pubs are a vital part of our high streets and social fabric in communities throughout the country and play an important role in our national economy. Yet they have been hit hard, first by COVID-19 and now by the energy and economic crises. Even before the pandemic, they were under severe threat, with a 15% fall in their number from 2010 to 2020.
Clause 162 of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill would give local authorities the power to arrange rental auctions for vacant commercial properties if they have been vacant for more than a year. I appreciate CAMRA has raised concerns about the conversion of vacant pubs and how there is no obligation to reinstate pubs to their original fittings.
Planning reform is long overdue but the measures must be used to make the planning system simpler, with more genuine power for communities. While I do believe rental auctions are a good way to get vacant sites on our high streets into use, I share your concern that communities are being left out of decisions made about their local area.
I am pleased the Opposition has set out plans to introduce a proper community right to buy important assets, high street or otherwise. We also need to get money back into people’s pockets, bring down bills and deliver a new generation of well-paid jobs for the future. Only then will we see our high streets and town centres able to thrive again – the real route to levelling up this country.
The Government’s consultation on High Street Rental Auctions is due to end on 23 June 2023. I urge Ministers to take on board the concerns raised by CAMRA about the protection of pubs.