KEIGHLEY MP Kris Hopkins has hit back at campaigners who claim he is neglecting pubs.

Mr Hopkins, the government’s Community Pubs Minister, said he and the government were determined to protect local pubs.

Mr Hopkins spoke after the Protect Pubs campaign this week issued ’wanted’ posters” featuring national politicians it claimed had allowed valued community pubs to close.

A picture of Mr Hopkins in a cowboy hat was accompanied by a demand that he make it harder for pub buildings to be used for other purposes, such as mini-markets.

The Twitter campaign entitled #ProtectPubs – backed by real-ale supporters – claims that Mr Hopkins and the Department of Community and Local Government have left it to local councils to deal with the issue, while giving local communities no say.

Kris Hopkins responded: “Local pubs are part of the social and cultural fabric of our town, and this nation.

“We have already abolished the unpopular beer and alcohol duty escalators, cut business taxes for pubs and armed communities with the right to protect their treasured local from closure by listing it as a community asset.

“We are currently considering what further steps can be taken to protect community pubs whilst avoiding the blight of empty, boarded up property.”

Mr Hopkins said ‘permitted development rights’, which are opposed by the Protect Pubs campaign, played an important role in the planning system.

He said: “While permitted development rights provide flexibility, produce bureaucracy and allow best use to be made of existing buildings, Bradford Council can use the powers we made available to it to remove these rights and ensure the change of use from a pub requires a planning application.

“As the local gatekeeper of the democratic process, the council should be using these powers appropriately to play its part in protecting one of our national treasures, the Great British Pub.”