In ALE 358, I noted the success that Cambridge CAMRA, together with our colleagues Cambridge Past, Present and Future had had in helping to convince Cambridge City Council to adopt the Interim Planning Policy Guidance (IPPG). I said that, we hoped that this would be a significant step towards the saving of local pubs that were under threat of development, but also warned that we thought the IPPG did not offer enough protection to pubs outside of conservation areas.

Since then we have lost the Dog and Pheasant, Chesterton, and The Greyhound in Coldhams Lane, both to the bulldozer and never to return. The Flying Pig and the Rosemary branch remain under threat, with the latter facing an application to be demolished, leading to one city councilor, Rob Dryden, publically describing the new measures as "totally worthless".

I also understand an appeal against the refusal of permission to demolish The Penny Ferry in Chesterton has been launched by the developers.

Clearly the IPPG on its own isn't working and we need to look at other means of both publicizing and then preventing the loss of pubs in our area and all over the country. We need to go beyond the city councils and local media and take our arguments to central government and the national media.

In April 2012 Cambridge CAMRA launched its "Manifesto for Saving Pubs". More than half of the issues listed in this manifesto were national issues. As a branch we have a mandate to approach local members of parliament, both collectively as a branch and individually, asking them to take forward our arguments to the House of Commons.

Following Head Office guidance, Cambridge CAMRA contacted the 3 MPs on our patch.

At that time Andrew Lansley (S Cambridgeshire) and James Paice (SE Cambridgeshire) were both government ministers so were limited in what they would commit to. However Cambridge MP Julian Huppert was much more positive. He agreed to meet us to both discuss and support the manifesto. Further than this, he took up and tried to alleviate many of our concerns by introducing his Local Services (Planning) Bill, which is awaiting its second reading, now scheduled in January. Unfortunately, as a Private Members Bill it is very unlikely to reach the statute book but it has certainly raised the profile of the CAMRA campaign and will, we hope, influence future legislation.

The power of the Petition

One of the biggest national issues for CAMRA, also included in our manifesto, is the "Beer Tax Escalator". It was introduced in 2008 by the then Chancellor, Alistair Darling, and has resulted in the duty on beer rising by inflation plus 2% every year since. More than 1 of the cost of every pint you buy in a pub now goes to the treasury. It has been calculated that further increases in duty won't increase the money going to the treasury as it is suppressing sales and undermining the viability of pubs and breweries. During the summer CAMRA ran an on-line petition to have the escalator debated in Parliament. In the autumn the petition reached its 100,000 signature target and the debate saw the call for the government to review escalator passed unopposed with many MPs calling for the escalator to be scrapped.

Not surprisingly the government have chosen to ignore these demands but the knock on effect is that another issue of CAMRA national concern is likely to be addressed.

The April manifesto also clearly berates the fact that supermarket chains are able to use their buying power and tax advantages to offer below cost sales of alcohol to encourage customer footfall. This severely undercuts the prices pubs have to charge to be able to remain viable. The government has proposed to address this issue (and it has to be said, the other issues of under age drinking and alcohol abuse) by introducing a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol. CAMRA would have preferred 50p per unit minimum price, but admits that a 45p minimum will certainly help. It will have no effect on the price we pay in pubs - unless you happen know of a pub selling beer at less than £1 a pint. If you do could you let me know?