YOU AND YOUR RIGHTS

If you don't want a new pub on your doorstep, brew up a campaign.

You have lived in your friendly neighbourhood for 15 years. You are proud of your home, there is no negative equity and one day you hope to make money on it. Then you hear of plans to build a pub at the end of your road. What can you do to stop it? Just what are your rights?

It depends on where you live. Many local authorities try to attract businesses to areas that are not bringing in enough revenue. They also encourage "attractive" developments that they think will be useful amenities, making the area "better" for those living there. "Strengthening vitality and viability" is a catchy description you might come across.

With applications for change of use (a group of shops to become a pub, for example), councils can place a notice (usually A4-sized, often yellow) near the site, or advertise in the local paper, or do both. If it is likely to affect the character of a conservation area, the details of the proposal and the final date for receiving objections must be advertised.

The council must inform owners of adjacent houses of proposed commercial development; it is discretionary whether they contact residents' groups.

First step: contact the council officer dealing with the application, who will provide impartial advice about what could sway the development committee, comprising elected councillors, against approval.

While the committee must heed planning policy guidance from the Department of the Environment, it is still free to do what it wants. If it flies in the face of government policy, it runs the risk of losing on appeal (though local authorities win two-thirds of appeals, and it is quite rare for costs to go against them).

Residents cannot object on "moral" grounds (parents of young children opposing a wine bar or pub because of fears of increased rowdiness or drunkenness will get nowhere), commercial issues (sufficient outlets for food and drink already) or because it might lower the value of their houses.

Step two: establish arguments. The council will tell you what can and can't be taken into account. If there are no concrete objections, go for sensitive social ones, such as pollution, increased traffic, parking, hours of operation and noise. Gather support, because numbers count.

Step three: enlist your ward councillors. At some councils you can make "oral representation" when the application is debated, but you have only three minutes to give relevant points. Your councillors, used to tactical talking, might put your case best. If they don't, you have the right not to vote for them in the next local election.

Don't be put off by big business. If you are against the planning developments, fight them. You may well win.

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