ALE November 1999 No. 296

Rural Pubs

Recent figures show that three pubs are closing each day on average and in December the Countryside Agency announced that six village pubs are closing permanently each week (many to become housing).


CAMRA has designed a Public House Viability Test which can be used by planners and locals to assess cases. It's due out in the New Year. Hopefully this will add much-needed objectivity and consistency.

This is part of CAMRA's push in this area, spearheaded by the caseworker based at CAMRA HQ in St Albans, Geoff Brandwood, who's a council planner there.

A cautionary tale

The last pub in the village of High Easter, Essex, has closed after a planning battle. It's reckoned to date to 1615 but that didn't save it.

It's the same old story: the owners couldn't make a success of it and put it up for sale as a house. Uttlesford District Council refused change-of-use permission, even though they have no policy covering pub closures (a common problem). On appeal the planning Inspector ruled for the owners, fearing for the historic building if it was disused.

The 17th-century Rising Sun, Dutton, near Gt. Dunmow, has been closed by Ridleys and converted to a house. This was also opposed by Uttlesford D.C.
(Licensee & Morning Advertiser 26-Aug-1999, 30-Sep)

Local success

The Hoops at Great Eversden and The Kings at Reach (now renamed back to The Dyke's End) have been saved by their villages and have reopened, serving real ale and food. They were sold by owners who couldn't make a success of them as pubs and wanted to sell them as houses.

Government support scheme

The trial scheme in Lincolnshire reported in ALE 293 found that of the 100 pubs mailshotted for possible assistance, none responded. A questionnaire was then sent to find out why. Answer: letters from "the council" are distrusted. A plainer letter was then sent, with a good response. Fifteen pubs may now get up to 5,000 each towards developing their businesses, for instance by diversifying into shops.

The Rural Development Commission is now the Countryside Agency and may take the scheme nationwide.

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Cambridge & District CAMRA