Monday, October 02, 2006

The loss of rural pubs

There is a worrying story in the Shropshire Star today:
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.

“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.”
Another landlord forecasts:
“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.


Political Umpire said...

It's the same old story really. No one goes to the charming local pub, but then gets up in arms when the owner decides to close it. We wouldn't tolerate for one minute someone telling us what to do with our property, yet we seek to stop them from selling their's.

There is a good episode of Yes Prime Minister on appointments of bishops, which confirms your suspicion about the theological convictions required.

Anonymous said...

a note re The Swan - the current owners were very unwelcoming, and tried to turn a classic old English village into a restaurant -they were poor business people, obviously hated children, and no one was surprised it closed OR that they have since turned nasty -they have refused to sell it now, having claimed they needed the money, very sulky, very silly, good riddance