Both Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils have opted into the Sustainable Communities Act. This legislation allows Councils to make proposals to the Government for action on encouraging the economic and social well-being of their area - promoting such "sustainability" involves providing local services and pubs are specifically included in the definition of services. The new law could, for instance, be used to persuade Government to allow every pub (tied or not) to source a beer from a local brewer or to require planning permission before a pub can be demolished or converted to a restaurant or shop. At the time of writing, we've had less success in getting our other local Council, East Cambridgeshire, to sign up. Their initial response was that the Act provides no official process of opting in. We've pointed out that it absolutely does and that around 70 councils have done so. Given the Council's excellent planning policies around pub protection we very much hope they will get on board.

A recent independent report by Nielsen shows that cask ale is outperforming the rest of the beer market. Real ale now has 44% of the on-trade beer market compared with 39% three years ago. All goes to show that drinkers increasingly demand beers of character and distinction not just stuff to swill down the throat. Meantime the Why Handpull? Marketing Group, a new alliance of regional brewers, has been set up to raise the profile of real ale still further. Their preference is to use the term "cask beer" and to talk in terms of "taste", "flavour", "Britishness" and "freshness" - which sounds about right.