I CAN well understand the anger and unhappiness of Somersham villagers who have protested against the takeover of village pub, the Black Bull, by Tesco for use as a store.

I can assure them that the Campaign for Real ale (CAMRA), as a consumer organisation representing the interests of pub goers, supports those who are objecting to the conversion of this important community amenity to one that they say is not needed in the village, and regrets the fact that our planning system does not currently allow any planning controls over changes of use of pubs to shops or restaurants.

CAMRA has been campaigning hard to change the present arrangements that allow changes between specified use classes for buildings without the need for planning permission.

Pubs may be converted into shops, hairdressers, restaurants, banks, estate agents and other similar uses without the need for a planning application. This gives no controls over such changes by local authorities or rights of objection to members of the public.

In recent years, many pubs have been lost to communities across the nation by being converted to restaurants and other uses without the need for planning permission.

Locally, the Hardwick Arms in Gamlingay was the latest of these, during 2010. Other such losses in recent years have included the Red Lion at Kneesworth, the Harrier in Brampton, Kisby's Hut in Papworth Everard and the Angel in St Neots.

The coalition Government has followed the Labour Government's lead in appointing a minister for community pubs. Since his appointment last autumn, Bob Neil has already acted towards ending some planning loopholes that result in unpreventable losses of community pubs, and CAMRA will be urging more planning controls, specifically over changes of use of pub buildings.

PAUL MOORHOUSE

Publicity officer

Huntingdonshire CAMRA