The landlords of three village drinking holes - The Swan at Frodesley, The Tally Ho at Bouldon, and The Woodcock Inn at Pulverbatch - have put forward plans this summer to convert the pubs into houses.The licensee of the splendidly named Cross Foxes at Longden Coleham in Shrewsbury says:
“I think it is the money side of it. In the town, unless they’ve got darts and dominoes teams or real locals to keep them going during the week, there isn’t really anyone.Another landlord forecasts:
“People just haven’t got the money with interest rising and mortgages going up.
“The Friday just gone was the last Friday of the month, when people got paid, and we were very busy. But you can almost tell what time of the month it is by the pubs, because at other times it is quieter and you know it is because people don’t have the money.
“We are lucky as we have been here 20 years, so we are well established. But it is getting harder and harder, and overheads are getting more and more.”
“When the smoking ban comes along, a lot of those rural licensees, if they had been borderline before, are going to have to go for development.”Certainly, the smoking ban has reduced pub takings in Scotland.
I suspect that the real reason why pubs are closing is the continuing inflation in property prices. If a pub is struggling - and when I passed The Tally Ho at Bouldon at on a walk a few months ago I assumed from its appearance that it had already closed - then selling it as a private house is increasingly likely to make economic sense.
A council can refuse a change of planning use: we did so for The Crown in Theddingworth when I was a district councillor. I believe it was only the second case of its kind in the country. The Crown remained open for years afterwards, though I believe it has now closed. But ultimately if no one can make a living from running a pub, it will close.
It is not just the loss of pubs that is threatening rural Shropshire. The same issue of the Star reports that there is a shortage of vicars.
This could be my chance to move to my favourite county. I don't believe in God, but I understand that is no longer an insuperable barrier in the Church of England.